EULA - District 14-A champion Ira built a comfortable 23-point lead and a late charge by Huckabay wasn't enough as the Indians were defeated, 61-47, in the Class A Division II area finals on Friday.
Huckabay, which had won 14 of its previous 16 games including Tuesday's bi-district championship over Panther Creek, finished the season with a record of 20-10. The Indians have now won 20 or more games in seven of head coach Dean Edwards' eight seasons. Edwards has also led Huckabay to seven bi-district titles.
Ira, which advances to face May in the regional quarterfinals, scored the game's first seven points and led 20-11 after one.
Things began to look bleak for the Indians when Ira hit a series of second and third-chance field goals to stretch its lead to 35-21 before R.T. Shafer beat the buzzer from 3-point land for a commanding 17-point halftime lead.
"I thought our defensive game plan was good and that we executed it pretty well," said Edwards. "The problem was, we could not keep them from getting second chance opportunities. It wasn't the first shot that hurt us, it was the second or third one. We were overmatched as far as size and that made it tough."
Huckabay standout Joseph Jackson tallied seven in the opening half before taking over in the second. The senior, who entered the postseason averaging 27.5 points and scored 10 in Tuesday's playoff opener, knocked down 16 after the break to finish with 23.
But the Indians had no answer for athletic 6-4 sophomore postman Kylor Fine, who also scored 23, and dominated the backboards on both ends of the floor.
Ira hit 17 of its first 32 shots and stretched its lead to 44-21 before Huckabay had its best run of the night.
The Indians went on a 10-2 push, with eight of the points coming from Jackson. He drove and hit a runner to begin the rally, then added a put-back, a 3-ball and and a short jumper in the paint while being fouled to bring the Indians within 15.
Ira extended its advantage back to 18 at 50-32 after three quarters before the Indians mounted one final charge.
Senior Trenton Dixon stole a ball near mid-court and sprinted the other way for a lay-in before adding a 15-foot fade-away to pull the Indians within 14.
Moments later, Jackson hit a pair of free throws to make it 53-42 with 3:29 left. A put-back by freshman Brady Dowell returned the deficit to 11 two possessions later, but the Indians would get no closer.
Ira free throws, and a pair of baskets in the paint by Bulldog big-man Fine helped make it 61-44 before Jackson drilled a trey for Huckabay to finish the scoring.
"I'm very proud of our team because we never quit," Edwards said. "This team is full of heart and these kids don't know anything else but to play as hard as they possibly can. I tell the kids anytime you take the floor one of three things are going to happen. You can win, you can get beat or you can lose. We always want to win and we can handle getting beat, but you never just want to go out and lose. Losing isn't an option. That's what we live by."
Ira hit only four of its last 15 shots from the field to finish 21-47 for 44.7-percent. The Indians struggled to just 7-20 in the opening half before coming back with a strong 13-27 after the break. They finished 20-47 on the night, good for 42.6-percent.
Postman Rance Dunn helped Fine dominate in the paint and gave Ira a second double-digit scorer with 12.
Behind Jackson, no other Indian scored more than six points. Dixon and Dowell each had six, Jeffrey Norcross had five on his birthday, Jose Lopez added four and Samuell Prieto, who had 26 in the playoff opener, was held to three.