By Doug Chapin
LEAVITTSBURG — Something of an outsider in the All-American Conference Blue Division, the Campbell High boys basketball teamn earned a big road victory Friday night at LaBrae High, 73-68.
The Devils (7-3, 2-0 AAC Blue) are the lone former Metro Athletic Conference school in the division. The other five schools — LaBrae, Newton Falls, Champion, Girard and Brookfield — came from the Trumbull Athletic Conference.
“Our tier is loaded with tough kids who play hard and are well-coached,” Campbell coach Brian Danilov said. “We schedule who we schedule before our tier games trying to prepare for the competition we know we’ll get in our division.
“The best thing for us is that our kids got to see LaBrae play a couple of times, including seeing them play at the Chevy Centre. Our kids got to see how tough LaBrae is,” Danilov said.
Though Campbell led all the way after opening a 21-11 lead after one quarter and holding a 51-34 advantage midway through period three, the contest came down to the final minutes.
LaBrae trimmed the deficit to 58-54 by the end of the third quarter and closed to within 58-56 early in the fourth. Campbell then re-established a six-point lead and held the Vikings at bay.
Junior guard Nate Hodge converted both ends of a one-and-one with five seconds remaining to clinch the outcome.
“Coach [Chad] Kiser does a great job and coming here we knew it was going to be a really tough game,” Danilov said. “Their team kind of mirrors our team in style of play and what we want to do.
“We were very concerned with their personnel and how hard and how smart they play. I wasn’t surprised that the game came down to the end.”
“It was a big test for us. We knew Campbell was a team that was going to come out and run with us,” Kiser said. “They shot the ball a little better, especially in the first half, than we did. That hurt us. There were some times we played pretty good defense in the first half and they still made shots.”
Campbell indeed shot well throughout the contest, making 56 percent (29-of-52) of its field goal tries, including 46 percent (six-of-13) from 3-point range.
The Red Devils got balanced scoring with Hodge and Claxton LeBron scoring 16 each, Germaine Somrajit adding 15 and Jerah’me Williams 10, to go with four assists.
Lester Hughes contributed six points, six assists and seven rebounds, and Somrajit had six rebounds and three blocked shots.
Williams, Hughes and LeBron, in particular, were excellent handling the Vikings’ pressure defense, especially in the final quarter when Campbell slowed things down somewhat and took some time off the clock.
“When you look at the tradition Campbell has, and Coach Danilov has done a great job, you know going in that they are a team that will be in contention for the division title,” Kiser said about the Devils. “I told our guys before the game that you could put Campbell in any division in the league and they could compete.”
LaBrae (7-4, 1-2 AAC Blue) also had balanced scoring with 15 points by Jacob Jaros, 13 by Bryan Watkins, 11 by Steve Woodyard and eight each by Mike Morris and Cameron Truss.
Campbell ran into foul trouble throughout the contest, but got plenty of help from the bench.
“Luckily we’ve developed a good nine, 10 guys who we can go to,” Danilov said. “That’s what we’ve been working for. This had to be a great team win for us. Everybody had to play well for us. Every possession was important. It was a great team win against a great team.”