Tigers maul Purple Riders
ATHENS, Ohio -- Zac Carter dropped in 37 points, and Trey Flecther put in 23, as Ironton bulled its way past Martins Ferry, 85-54, in the regional semifinals in the Ohio Division III State Basketball Tournament on Wednesday at the Ohio University Convocation Center.
But it wasn't quite the complete game that Fighting Tigers coach Mark LaFon wanted.
Ironton was timid underneath early, and even though the Tigers went into the half with an 11-point lead, LaFon said he laid into his squad at the break to get them to be more aggressive.
"These are veteran guys now, and so they know we go into the locker room and have the same talk and we correct things," LaFon said. "From this point on, we can't wait a half to do that."
Indeed, the round of eight has been the stumbling block for Ironton over the past few seasons, and this team knows it has to up its game to get to the final four in Columbus.
"I think the biggest thing is we have to come out strong from the beginning," LaFon said in looking ahead to Saturday's regional final against Oak Hill. "Our coaches need to do everything they can and our kids need to be relaxed and confident that they can execute."
Carter, a senior, said that making it to Columbus "means everything" to this team.
"We're an experienced team, we've been here my freshman year and my junior year," he said. "We're very experienced so we know what we've got to do to win."
"We just have to get in a good practice and stay focused," added Fletcher, also a senior. "We have one goal and one mission."
As for Wednesday night's contest, Carter said he felt locked in on the floor and good about his team's performance, especially in the second half.
The only player from Martins Ferry to give Ironton any problems was Cody Schau, who scored 32 points.
LaFon called Schau a "great kid" and a "special player."
Carter said the defense did what they could, they just couldn't slow Schau down.
"We were contesting shots," Carter said. "He was just making good shots and some unorthodox shots."
While LaFon was wanting the Tigers to move more inside, his main big man Fletcher was knocking down long distance shots that were big momentum builders for Ironton.
Fletcher had three 3-pointers on the night.
"They let me take those as long as I'm hot," Fletcher said with a grin. "If I start missing a few coach will get me out of there."
LaFon said Fletcher's shooting put him in a bit of an awkward position.
"That was tough on me, I'm not going to lie to you," LaFon said. "I wanted to tell him to get his body down inside, but he's hitting threes, so what do you do? And then we went with a bit of a smaller lineup, where we really needed his size, but he just kept hitting them so we left him out there for a little bit."
And then there was Carter, making steals, getting assists, diving into the stands and hitting almost every shot he saw.
"He's a special kid," LaFon said. "He's more than gifted, he puts the work in. He stays in that gym and I can't say that enough, that's what I want people to know. He puts the time in seven days a week."
Oak Hill advanced with a 46-44 win over Piketon. Tipoff Saturday is 7 p.m. at The Convo.
MARTINS FERRY 10 15 14 15 -- 54: Schau 32, Strama 10, Vargo 10, Appolloni 2.
IRONTON 14 22 31 18 -- 85: Carter 37, Fletcher 23, White 8, Glover 2, Boykins 2, Bowling 4, Cox 7, Crockerel 2.