IRONTON – Three games in five days is no easy task, especially to start the season.
But that challenge was passed with flying colors on Saturday night when the Wheelersburg Pirates got a big road win over the Ironton Fighting Tigers 66-58.
“Coming off a late start, you have no idea what to expect,” said Wheelersburg head coach Steven Ater after the Pirates win at Ironton Saturday night. “You look at your schedule to start and you have to go to Oak Hill and to Ironton, you know you’ve got a hill to climb.”
The hill was there, but with how hard the Pirates have been working leading up to Tuesday night’s season opener, Ater gives all the credit to his team.
“I’ll give them so much credit. We’ve got six seniors who, leadership wise, have come in and really set the tone early on. We really want to work to try and accomplish some things as a unit. They’ve really set the tone, and we practice so hard. We’re really deep so everyone is playing that much harder in practice, and so it’s elevated everybody’s game.”
That hard work ethic that Ater mentioned really paid off early and often on Saturday. The Pirates jumped out to an early 13-0 lead in the first 3:30 of the first quarter at Ironton and would never again let the Fighting Tigers get to within less than five points for the remainder of the game. Senior Tanner Holden helped establish the tone early by scoring eight of those first 13 which included two threes.
“It was big, we were hitting shots,” said Ater. “But the big thing was that we were guarding. Holding them to six points was big. They weren’t really hitting shots, but we were there. We were really focused on keeping them off the glass because they’re a big physical team.”
Holden provided instant offense for the Pirates early and often, but it was a sophomore that really anchored the Pirates offense for the final three quarters of the Pirates road trip to Ironton Saturday night. J.J. Truitt finished the first quarter with just a single three made but would go on to score a game high 30 points total for Wheelersburg in their win, which speaks volumes to how hard Truitt worked in the offseason and in practice, Ater believes.
“He hit shot after shot after shot. He also had to guard (Charlie) Large who is their leading scorer. He had to do it all: rebounds, finished a big and-one when they started to make a run around the mid fourth quarter. He works so hard to put himself in those positions. One of the hardest working practice players you’ll ever see, and its great to see that hard work pay off for him.”
Ironton was led in scoring by Large who finished with 22 points, Ethan Wilson who finished with 18 points, and Trent Milleson who finished with eight points.
Besides Truitt’s heroic 30 point effort that included five threes, Holden finished with 19, and senior Trent Salyers finished with eight points to lead Wheelersburg.
Moving forward, Ater will look to key in on a few things for the Pirates to work on to try and keep improving as the season marches on.
“We’ve got size, we can score, some kids that can really shoot the ball. We’ve got to sure up our defense, get better at some little things like communication. Boxing out so we don’t give up second or third chances like they got in the fourth. Offensively, I thought we had stretches where we were patient and took what the defense gave us, and then I thought we forced a few possessions. We’ve got Waverly coming in Tuesday night, as athletic team as we’ll see all year: tournaments included. That’ll be a tough test, hopefully we can get prepared for them.”
— Jacob Smith (@JacobSmithPDT) December 16, 2018
Wheelersburg: 20-11-12-23 – 66
Ironton: 6-10-17-25 – 58
Wheelersburg: 20 FGs, 11 3pts. (Truitt 5), 15/23 FTs. Scoring: Truitt 30, Holden 19, Salyers 8, Mullins 6, Miller 2, McCorkle 1
Ironton: 22 FGs, 6 3pts. (Wilson 3), 8/9 FTs. Scoring: Large 22, Wilson 18, Milleson 8, Grizzle 5, Carrico 5
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT