By SETH STASKEY
For The Intelligencer
ATHENS - Martins Ferry knew it was in for a big challenge coming to Ohio University Wednesday night.
It took just about two minutes for the Purple Riders to fully realize it after the state-ranked Ironton Tigers scored the first seven points of the contest basically in the blink of an eye.
From there, outside of a few first-half mini spurts by the Riders, it was all Tigers, who cruised to a 85-54 victory in the Division III regional semifinal at the Convo on the campus of Ohio University.
Ironton, now 22-2, will return to OU on Saturday night to meet Oak Hill, which dispatched Piketon in the nightcap, for a trip to the Division III State Final Four. Martins Ferry, meanwhile, finished its season with a 14-9 record, after putting together an impressive tournament run.
M - Barritt 0, 0-0 0; Vargo 5, 0-1 10; Schau 14, 3-4 32; Appolloni 1, 0-0 2; Strama 4, 2-2 10; Sears 0, 0-0 0; Burress 0, 0-0 0; Edwards 0, 0-0 0; D. Schau 0, 0-0 0; Shane 0, 0-0 0; Rine 0, 0-0 0; Agnew 0, 0-0 0; Totals: 24, 5-8 54.
I - Carter 12, 7-7 37; Glover 1, 0-0 2; White 3, 2-3 8; Fletcher 8, 4-5 23; Stephens 0, 0-0 0; Boykin 1, 0-0 2; Bowling 2, 0-0 4; Garred 1, 0-0 2; Cox 3, 0-0 7; Totals: 31, 13-15 85.
3-Point Goals: Schau; Carter 6, Fletcher 3, Cox.
Martins Ferry 10 15 14 15 - 54
Ironton 14 22 31 18 - 85
"That's a very, very good basketball team we just faced," said Martins Ferry head coach Jeff Sabatino. "I thought we fought back well in the first half, but we just ran out of gas. We play physical, but they're more physical, athletic and fast. They were everything everyone said they were and more. I hope they win the whole thing."
The Riders, who never led in the game, found themselves down 14-10 after one and the margin was 36-25 at the half.
However, the Tigers outscored the Riders, 31-14 in the third. Zac Carter and Trey Fletcher did much of the damage. Fletcher scored 10 points in that period alone.
While the Tigers' duo was filling it up, Martins Ferry senior Cody Schau did everything he could to help keep his team in it.
Schau capped his impressive prep career with a 32-point outburst. He knocked down 14-of-24 shots from the field. He also grabbed five rebounds.
Senior Tyler Strama, who is the Riders' heart-and-soul, banged his way to 10 points and four rebounds. Junior Robert Vargo finished with 10 points and five points.
Though the outcome wasn't what Sabatino, the players or the large following of Rider faithful, which made the trip had hoped for, it won't dampen or overshadow the accomplishments that the Riders put forth.
"I am proud of my guys," Sabatino said.