Carter breaks Ironton record
IRONTON — As time wound down Saturday night in the fourth quarter of Ironton’s matchup with Spring Valley, Zac Carter knew he was running short on the opportunity to break the school scoring record in front of his home crowd at the Conley Center.
And when Ironton boys basketball head coach Mark LaFon pulled Carter with 2:30 left and the 84-56 victory well in hand, a dejected Carter went to the sideline needing just four points for the record.
“I was begging him to put me back in,” Carter said. “I told him I’d run as many suicides as he wanted me to. I just wanted to get back in here and break the record in front of the home crowd so bad. I didn’t want to do it at Chillicothe (on Tuesday).”
On top of Carter’s pleading, the entire crowd in the Conley Center started a chorus of boos once they learned Carter was out of the game. They then followed with a collective chant of “We Want Zac” over the next two minutes.
“When I turned to him and asked him ‘Do you understand why I took you out’ he said ‘Coach I want to get it at home. I don’t want to get it at Chillicothe,’” LaFon said. “He said ‘I’d do anything.’ I just said ‘Don’t get hurt.’
“We put him back in and let him finish it. It’s a great honor for him and he’s worked very hard to get it.”
Carter proceeded to hit six free throws in the next 35 seconds, including the record-breaking attempts with 1:19 left to give him 1,597 points in his career and send the Conley Center into a frenzied roar.
Everyone in the Conley Center — including Spring Valley’s coaching staff, fans and players — gave Carter a standing ovation for the effort, which concluded a 37-point night.
Not only had the 5-foot-9, 150-pound senior broken the record, he had done so in front of the former record-holder Dennis Gagai, who was at the game.
Carter said having Gagai there made the evening additionally special.
“I always looked up to Dennis when my brother (Marc) played, and seeing the way he could score and shoot threes from deep,” Carter said. “I’ve looked up to him and he inspired me to be better and better every day.”
Perhaps, it was a little fitting that Carter achieved the record from the foul line.
Always the perfectionist on the court, Carter was upset with himself for missing four free throws in the game’s early going — missing out on four points that would have tied the record earlier.
Once given the second chance to break the record on his home court, Carter buckled down and nailed his final six free throw attempts to set the mark. That included a pair off an intentional foul to tie the record.
“I hate missing free throws more than anything,” Carter said. “Those two (intentional free throws) were tough because I was up there by myself and it felt like I was centered out and the crowd was so quiet.”
The crowd thought Carter had broken it just following the intentional foul when he came off a screen and hit a 3-pointer, but an illegal screen was called setting off another chorus of boos.
In addition to Carter’s record-breaking night, the Fighting Tigers got 27 points and 11 rebounds from Trey Fletcher, who has teamed with Carter over the last four years to form the Tri-State’s moth lethal duo.
LaFon said Carter’s teammates have contributed to his success greatly.
“Good teammates helped him get the extra games in to accomplish that,” LaFon said. “You look at the tournament runs we’ve made and those teammates helped get him five extra games as a freshman and four as a sophomore.
“It’s a team effort. The kids in the locker room were going wild for him and it was good to get it for the fans, too, because they’ve watched him play and they wanted to be part of it, too.”
Ironton stretched the lead after a first half when Spring Valley used the 3-point shot to stay in the game.
Despite dominating the rebounding category, the Fighting Tigers led just 37-29 at the break and the Timberwolves got as close as six in the third quarter.
However a 20-5 run predicated on Ironton’s defense blew the game open midway through the fourth period.
Greg Herbert led Spring Valley with 16 points while Austin Keyser added 13.