An epidemic known as Tournament Fever has swept over the Jackson City School District! 
The first symptoms were noticed when the Jackson Ironmen boys’ basketball team was putting the wraps on a regular season which resulted in a 15-7 record, the best in quite a few years. The affliction escalated to much higher proportions in the sports-minded populace after the Ironmen defeated a very good Gallia Academy team 42-38, to win their first Sectional Tournament championship since the 2002-2003 season, when current head coach Max Morrow was a sophomore on that squad.
Last Friday night at the Ohio University Convocation Center (The Convo) in Athens, the Ironmen – who all dyed their hair blonde in a show of solidarity – defeated one of the basketball bluebloods of Southeastern Ohio, the Warren Local Warriors, by a score of 42-32 in a Division II District Tournament semi-final game. The victory propels the Ironmen now into the District championship game this Sunday at 5 p.m. at The Convo against top-seeded Thornville Sheridan. Now even those folks who have trouble distinguishing a basketball from a volleyball have Tournament Fever, and it’s likely to spread even more this week.
You have to excuse Jackson basketball fans for not quite being used to it. District-tournament appearances in basketball seem to come around only about once a generation. In fact, there are only four JHS boys’ basketball teams which have made it to a District Tournament championship game – and none have been able to win once they got there. 
Let’s review the abbreviated record:
The 1961-62 team of head coach Dave Fisher, generally considered to be one of the best teams in school history, defeated Lucasville Valley in the District semi-finals, but then lost to an undefeated Marietta team in the District championship game which was played at Grover Center in Athens, just across Richland Avenue from The Convo. That Ironman team was led by 6-8 center Eddie Spriggs, who remains as the top boys’ basketball scorer in JHS history. Fisher, a hometown boy and 1952 JHS graduate, remains as the winningest boys’ basketball coach in school history. Former JHS basketball coach Steve Walburn was also a member of that team.
The 1984-85 Jackson Ironmen team was the first to play a District Tournament game in The Convo and in that year it took only one win to get to the District championship. The Ironmen, however, were defeated by Greenfield McClain. The Ironmen were led by an eagle-eye left-handed shooter with a long range named Pat Stevens, who in recent years returned to his alma mater to serve as athletic director.
Jeff Hodson coached the Ironmen in the 1984-85 season, and that turned out to be his last one as well. He moved on to Washington Court House High School to accept an administrative position and later became the high school principal before retiring. His sister, the late Susan Hodson Rinehart, was the 4-H Agent in Jackson County during some of the same years Jeff was coaching. 
The 2002-2003 team was coached by a youthful Dustin Ford, who came to Jackson right off the Ohio University campus where he was an outstanding guard for the Bobcats. The Ironmen had a good, but not great regular season, but caught fire in the tournament. They won a Sectional Tournament championship, then knocked off Waverly in the District Tournament semi-finals, thereby becoming the first Ironman team to win a tournament game at The Convo. The Ironmen then lost in the District finals against their long-time nemesis, the Gallia Academy Blue Devils and veteran coach Jim Osborne. While this season’s Jackson team dyed their hair, the members of the 2002-2003 team instead shaved their heads, making for quite a spectacle.
After another winning season at Jackson, Ford moved on to the college ranks as an assistant coach, first for Larry Hunter at Western Carolina before joining the staff of John Groce at Ohio University. He has since stayed on Groce’s staff as an assistant at Illinois and currently at the University of Akron. T.J. May, who was the junior varsity coach that season, is now the head coach at Concord College in West Virginia. Assistant Coach David Kight, the son of former JHS Athletic Director Bob Kight and the older brother of current Vinton County boys’ basketball assistant coach N.J. Kight, is now the head coach at Reedsville Eastern.
Morrow, who went on to score 973 points in his high school career, is now in his fourth season as the Ironmen’s head coach and gets to be interviewed on a regular basis on WKOV Radio game broadcasts by his father Dan Morrow, who was a former JHS football, basketball, tennis and baseball coach himself.
As for our local area, both the Oak Hill and Vinton County boys’ basketball programs have already experienced District Tournament glory. Current Oak Hill head coach Norm Persin and his 2008-2009 Oaks can claim the top achievement in Jackson County basketball history, as they won the Division IV State Tournament that season. 
Meanwhile, head coach Matt Combs keeps racking up successes at Vinton County High School where he has already led the Vikings to District titles in 2008, 2016 and 2017.
Like the Jackson Ironmen, the Wellston Golden Rockets are also seeking that first boys’ basketball District Tournament title. The 1965-1966 Golden Rockets of the late head coach John L. Derrow came close, but lost to the Lancaster Golden Gales in the District title game, who were led by future Ohio State Buckeyes quarterback Rex Kern.
That’s About It… Be Seeing You.