The Vikings will play host to Badger on Tuesday.
By DOUG CHAPIN
LEAVITTSBURG -- Defenses ruled the day as the LaBrae High basketball team all but eliminated Newton Falls from the Trumbull Athletic Conference race Friday with a 46-35 victory at the Vikings' gym.
The win gives LaBrae (13-3, 10-2 TAC) a season sweep of the Tigers (13-4, 9-4).
"What a war," LaBrae coach Gregg Isler said. "It was a great game."
Both teams have thrived all season by extending their zone defense and using plenty of good athletes to disrupt the other team's offense.
LaBrae shot just 31 percent (15-of-48) from the field including just 2-of-14 from behind the 3-point arc.
The Vikings missed 10 free throws (14-of-24) and committed 22 turnovers. And those were the winning team's statistics.
Newton Falls was 33 percent (13-of-39) from the field, missing all nine of its 3-point tries. The Tigers were 9-of-15 at the line and were guilty of 24 turnovers.
"It was a championship caliber game," Tiger coach Roy Sembach said. "When both teams go that hard, the shooting is going to be off. They simply made a couple of shots at the right time."
Seizing control: Tony Watkins hit a shot to put LaBrae ahead for good, 34-33, with 3:31 left. Tim Littell then hit a 3-pointer, his only points of the night. Littell's key bucket came off a cross-court pass by Brent DeCamp after John Klingensmith's steal.
Marty Hutchinson scored for the Tigers to cut the lead to two at the 2:05 mark, then Watkins sank two free throws with 1:38 to play.
Klingensmith rebounded a Falls miss at the other end and R.J. Grimm scored his only field goal of the game, a short baseline jumper. That made it 41-35 with 49 seconds to play.
Klingensmith rebounded a Tiger miss and made both ends of the one-and-one to clinch the game, 43-35.
"Tim Littell hit that big shot to put us up by four," Isler said. "I think we attacked the basket a little better in that stretch, then we made some free throws and they missed some shots at the other end."
Scoring leaders: Watkins had 16 points, six rebounds, four steals and three blocks for LaBrae, while Klingensmith tallied 11 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. LaBrae had a 31-22 edge on the boards.
Hutchinson scored 10 points for the Tigers and Jeff Stanley added nine. Eric Lance had seven rebounds and Derrick Runtas had five rebounds and five steals.
Both teams are expected to be among the seeded teams for the Division III sectional-district at Hubbard. But LaBrae still has some league business to attend to when co-leader Badger invades Tuesday.
The Tigers, meanwhile, will focus on the tournament.
"We're not going to worry about the league now," Sembach said. "It's time to get ready for the tournament. Focus will not be a problem. I'm looking forward to being with these guys the rest of the season."