The Vikings were coming off a victory over previously undefeated Newton Falls.
By DOUG CHAPIN
KINSMAN -- Members of the basketball coaching fraternity are rarely shy when it comes to talking about defense. They usually get excited when they see players working hard on the defensive end.
The two coaches involved in Badger's 59-52 Trumbull Athletic Conference victory over LaBrae on Tuesday were no exception.
After the Vikings shot just 1-of-15 in the third quarter, missing their first 14 shots, LaBrae coach Gregg Isler said, "Overall, we got the shots we were looking for, they just weren't going down.
"And you can give the Badger kids credit for that. The played excellent defense."
On LaBrae's in-your-face, attacking zone defense, Badger coach Bill Bogan said, "They do a nice job defensively. They all seem long and lean and quick and it seems like they've got four arms the way their hands are everywhere."
It was fitting in such a game that a defensive play was the key.
Fighting back: LaBrae had fought back from an 11-point deficit in the final minute of the first half and through its miserable third quarter to tie the game at 43 with 4:50 remaining on a 3-pointer by Tim Littell.
After Littell fouled out seconds later, senior forward Josh Upshire of Badger put the Braves back on top to stay by making both ends of a one-and-one.
Upshire followed less than a minute later with a heads-up athletic play, tipping a pass away from a LaBrae player, then circling around him and stealing the ball.
Upshire's ensuing layup -- his only basket of the game -- put Badger up 47-43 and the Braves scored the next seven points for a 54-43 advantage with 2:16 remaining.
"That was a huge play, but we expect those types of plays from Josh," Bogan said. "He hasn't been shooting well and even more he hasn't been getting a lot of good looks at the basket. But he has done a nice job staying composed and staying within the offense."
LaBrae, coming off a Friday victory over previously undefeated Newton Falls, would not quit, and chopped the lead to 54-50 with about a minute to play.
During a timeout, Bogan set up an inbounds play that worked perfectly, resulting in a game-clinching three-point play by senior guard Ryan Miller, whose 16 points led all scorers.
"I was pleased with the way we attacked their defense, we finished at the rim," Bogan said. "We were a little more patient in the second half, going to the rim instead of settling for the jumper."
Losses for all: Badger is 7-1 overall and 4-1 in a TAC race whose eventual winner could possibly end up with four or five losses. LaBrae is 5-3 and 3-2 in the league.
"Give Bill's kids a lot of credit, they played hard and they did a nice job attacking our defense," Isler said. "We've had good success with that style this year."
The Vikings ended up forcing 18 Badger turnovers. However, the downside of pressure defense -- fouls -- was a factor as the Braves shot 20-of-35 from the charity stripe.
LaBrae wound up just 25 percent from the field on 15-of-59 shooting, including 4-of-16 from 3-point range. But the Vikings stayed in the game by shooting 18-of-22 at the foul line.
John Klingensmith had nine points and six rebounds and Tony Watkins added eight points and nine boards. Maurice Hightower (six points, seven rebounds) and Littell (seven points, four steals) were solid off the bench.
Miller added five assists to his 16-point effort for Badger. Josh Klingensmith (nine points, 10 rebounds) and Brett Bell (13 points, eight rebounds) helped Badger to a 36-28 rebounding edge.
Klingensmith and Mitch Logan also split six blocked shots. Tyler Bonar came off the bench to score nine points. The Braves shot 40 percent (17-of-42) from the field.