HOWLAND - Anyone who thought the LaBrae Vikings' only scoring threat was returning All-Ohio junior Peyton Aldridge only needs to watch film from their game against Howland to dispel that theory.
Aldridge, a 6-foot-7 Division-I recruit who can score, pass and rebound, was battling a cold and struggled throughout the game. The rest of the Vikings sure looked healthy though.
Led by senior guard Carl Brown, LaBrae overcame a slow start and rolled past the Tigers, 75-50, in a non-conference clash on Tuesday.
Howland (1-5) began the game on a hot streak. The Tigers welcomed back several players from injuries and appeared to be playing with a renewed energy early on. Howland senior Brendan Cope scored 10 first-quarter points as the Tigers' dribble penetration led to a 21-18 lead after the first eight minutes.
"If you go back to the chalkboard, it's still up there right now, that was our number-one key to the game was stopping penetration," LaBrae coach Chad Kiser said. "In the first quarter, we didn't do that. In the man-to-man (defense), we just didn't do it. We didn't move our feet and our help positioning wasn't good."
He made sure his team heard about it, too, pleading to them in between quarters to play better defense. The encouragement worked. The Vikings (4-0) started the second quarter on a 17-3 run, sparked by Brown, who scored eight of his game-high 21 points in the frame. He ran the offense with poise and efficiency as Aldridge, the Vikings' leading scorer, struggled to find a rhythm. Brown had plenty of help, too. He was one of four players to score in double figures for LaBrae.
"I felt like my team needed me a little today," Brown said. "We came out a little sluggish, but we switched up our defense. And we didn't shoot great at first, but the shooters starting making their shots and that opened up the lane for us to drive. That penetration just gave us easy buckets."
LaBrae's constant motion and ball movement on offense, along with a suffocating zone defense, helped ignite a 21-6 advantage in the second quarter. Five different players scored in the frame
The Vikings led, 39-27, at the half, and they made sure they didn't relinquish that lead in the third quarter. Howland, which made four 3s in the first quarter, couldn't hit those same perimeter jump shots in the second half. The Tigers sank just 1 of 11 3-pointers in the final two quarters, and to make matters worse, Aldridge started to find his game. He scored nine of his 16 in the third quarter and helped spur a 19-4 run by the Vikings.
And once again, he wasn't the only Viking in rhythm. Tyler Shiamone and Marcell Richardson came off the bench to score 12 and eight points, respectively, and starter John Richards added 12.
Howland coach Bill Bogan said part of the Tigers' gameplan was to avoid allowing other players - outside of Aldridge - to make key contributions.
"We didn't want to double Peyton all night because he makes their other kids so much better," Bogan said. "But Carl Brown stepped up. (Shiamone) stepped up and they played good games. Their seniors stepped up and played well - they played like seniors."
Bogan said it might take a few games for the returning players to mesh with the rest of the Tigers, but he's confident better days are ahead.
"(Last) Wednesday was the first night we had all of our guys on the floor for practice," he said. "It's been a crazy year with injuries and sicknesses, but I don't think it's time to jump ship and run. We've got to pull it together. Our seniors have to play like seniors, and our young kids just have to keep playing the way they are."