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Carter takes Tigers to Columbus

Mar. 17, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

ATHENS, Ohio -- With the game's outcome in the balance, a familiar figure for Ironton High took over and tipped the scales in favor of the Fighting Tigers.

Trevor White hit two free throws with 1:35 left in the third period to give Ironton a 41-39 lead over Oak Hill in the Ohio Division III regional title game at Ohio University's Convocation Center. It was a lead the Fighting Tigers, led by old reliable Zac Carter, would not surrender.

Carter, the Southeast District Division III player of the year, scored 20 points from that stretch. He did it his way, driving to the basket, pulling up for a jumper or launching one from behind the three-point line. He connected on 9 of 11 shots in the second half.

Carter's burst helped Ironton pull away to a 66-49 victory over the Oaks and secure a berth in the Ohio State Tournament against Ottawa-Glandorf at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday at Ohio State's Value City Arena in Columbus. The senior finished with a game-high 34 points.

"One word on Carter. A player," Oak Hill coach Norm Persin said in a tribute.

"He hits a couple, he knows he's got the green light," Ironton coach Mark LaFon said. "I felt fine with the shots he takes."

"With Trey (Fletcher) on the bench, it had to be on my shoulders," Carter said. "I was happy I hit those shots. It felt good. I'm able to read the defense and go."

LaFon said the Fighting Tigers (23-2) got a big effort from 6-4 Trevor White down low. Trey Fletcher, the other Twin Tower in the paint at 6-6, spent the bigger part of the first half and much of the second on the bench due to foul trouble.

White stepped up and hit for 14 points and grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds. His play drew more attention from Oak Hill's defense and that gave Carter more room to operate.

"Lordy be. Trevor White saved us," LaFon said. "He stepped up big time."

Oak Hill (22-5) kept it close until that third-quarter run by Ironton. The Fighting Tigers opened a 7-point lead (49-42) after three and stretched the margin through the final period.

"When it got up to seven, we had to change things we were doing," Persin said. "We had to play at a faster pace."

This is Ironton's fourth regional title in the last eight years. The Fighting Tigers, who have won 17 in a row, are headed to the state tournament for the third time. They last appeared in the state in 2005.

"It feels good. We had some unfinished business and got it done," Carter said. "Hopefully we can go to Columbus and win this thing."

Garrin Stiltner led Oak Hill with 19 points and Luke Hammond had 15. Some observers felt the Oaks would slow the pace, but Persin, who spent 21 years at Chesapeake before going to Oak Hill, said that wasn't the case.

"Some people said we'd stall," he said. "No. We look to take good shots. I thought we did."

After the game, Ironton players and coaches cut down the nets and both ends. Players then tossed pieces of the nets to the fans in the upper decks at the Convo.

"Probably the best feeling I've had in my life," White said. "Now it's on to Columbus."

OAK HILL 9 11 22 7- 49: Stiltner 19, Haislop 6, Love 5, Hammond 15, Kidd 4.

IRONTON 10 12 27 17- 66: Carter 34, Glover 6, White 14, Fletcher 10, Boykin 2.