Ironton, LaFon finally get trip to Final FourPublished 1:38am Monday, March 18, 2013
ATHENS — In the past eight seasons under head coach Mark LaFon, Ironton has reached the regional tournament four times.
After three losses in the regional title game, Ironton finally delivered for LaFon as the Fighting Tigers beat the Oak Hill Oaks 66-49 to win the Division III regional championship Saturday at Ohio University’s Convocation Center.
“There’s a tremendous amount of pressure on (the players). They’re a bunch of kids who are 15, 16, 17 years old. I think we even have one who is 14. Heck, It’s a lot of pressure on me,” said LaFon.
The win sends Ironton to its third Final Four in school history adding to trips in 1994 and 2005, the latter a near major upset of heavily-favored North College Hill in a game that went down to the final seconds.
The Fighting Tigers are 23-2 and winners of 17 straight. They will play Ottawa-Glandorf (24-3) at 10:45 a.m. Thursday in the state semifinals at the Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University.
The finals are 10:30 a.m. on Saturday.
Not only did Ironton get over the hump, but LaFon beat his former high school coach and coaching mentor Norm Persin for the third straight year.
“I’m not going to lie. It’s special,” said LaFon.
“I learned a lot from him. It may not seem like it out on the floor sometimes, but we’re good friends.”
Ottawa-Glandorf beat Bloom-Carroll 60-56 in overtime to earn a second straight trip to the Final Four. The Titans were Division II state champions in 2004 and Division III champions in 2008 have reached the Final Four six times.
LaFon said the team is not going to be happy with just making an appearance in the Final Four.
“We’re not going there for a visit. We’re there to win it. I feel we have the team,” said LaFon.
All-Ohio guard Zac Carter scored 34 points to lead Ironton in the win over Oak Hill including 24 in the second half.
“It feels good,” Carter said of the trip to the state tournament. “We got some business done today. We’ve got some business to do. Hopefully, we can go to Columbus and win this thing.”
Tickets go on sale to the public at 7 p.m. Monday in the Conley Sports Center.