Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 18, 2013

Walsh big winner with Carter, Fletcher

Ironton standouts will remain teammates at college level

Rocky Stanley
The Independent

IRONTON — Zac Carter and Trey Fletcher established themselves as one of the premier one-two combinations in Ironton High basketball history.

Teammates since their childhood days, they will be sticking together a while longer.

Both players signed national letters of intent on Monday evening and will receive full scholarships to attend Walsh University, located in Canton, Ohio. Family and friends joined them in the IHS auditorium.

“The greatest thing about both is they were willing to put the time and effort in,” Ironton coach Mark LaFon said. “It was my pleasure to coach them.”

At one point, it appeared that Carter and Fletcher might wind up at different college programs. The good friends, both four-year starters for the Fighting Tigers, are happy it worked out they will be in the same place.

“It’s going to be great, knowing you have somebody you can trust on and off the court,” Fletcher said.

Carter, a first team All-Ohio Division III selection, expressed a similar sentiment.  

“It makes it easier going with someone that you played your whole life with,” said the 5-foot-9 guard, who is Ironton’s all-time leading scorer with 1,778 points.

The 6-6 Fletcher was the first to lean toward Walsh, which competes on the NCAA Division II level and belongs to the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. But the recruiting trail had its twists and turns for both seniors, with several colleges in the picture.

Said LaFon: “The season went long, the All-Star Games went long.”

Ironton finished 23-3 and advanced to the Final Four for the third time in school history.

The Tigers beat Oak Hill beat 66-49 in the regional finals as Carter scored 24 of his 34 points in the second half.

Ironton then dropped a 61-60 overtime heartbreaker to Ottawa Glandorf in the state semifinals, despite Fletcher’s 27-point, 13-rebound performance that earned him a spot on the Division III All-Tournament Team. Carter, who scored 12 points, played with a bad leg bruise that kept him out of practice all week.

“What a tremendous run it was,” LaFon said. “We would like it to have turned out differently, but the last game does not define that team. We had a lot of wins against good competition.”

Carter’s quickness gave opponents fits. He averaged 24.1 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and three steals while making 87 percent of his free throws.

Fletcher supplied 20.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game. He shot 55 percent from the field.

Both players also performed well as All-Stars. Carter scored 23 points, including five 3-pointers, in Ohio’s North/South All-Star Game to help his team win 102-89. Fletcher, a third-team All-Ohio Division III pick, tallied 15 points and Carter 12 in the Ohio-Kentucky All-Star Game as the Ohio squad posted a 106-98 victory.

As for the recruiting home stretch, LaFon said Fletcher was contacted by Bowling Green and Carter got a late call from Morehead State that delayed things.

“(Morehead) said they were highly interested in him, and then they lost that interest,” LaFon said.

In the end, Walsh won out on both players. LaFon feels confident that if both players put in the proper amount of work, “they will find playing time in their first two years, if not sooner.”

Fletcher, a 1,000-point career scorer, and Carter expressed relief to have their college decisions behind them. Both plan to pursue careers in physical therapy.

“Walsh just stood out to me for some reason,” said Trey, whose father, Joe Fletcher, was a two-way starter on Ironton’s first football state championship team in 1979. Joe also kicked the winning extra point in the title game.

Carter is taking nothing for granted as he prepares to transition to the college level.

“I’m going to work hard on school and basketball,” he said. “I want to get a starting position there. Nothing is going to be given to me. I have to earn a spot like everybody else.”

ROCKY STANLEY can be reached at rstanley@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2671.