By John Kovach
To Girard’s credit, the Indians never quit.
But Girard’s comeback attempt against LaBrae was too little too late, foiled by poor shooting and too few rebounds and successful foul shots.
After defeating the Vikings in their recent regular-season finale, the Indians couldn’t find the same wining formula Friday night in a Division III sectional tournament final at Howland High gym, although they battled to the end.
LaBrae, which led by as many as 15 points, held off Girard’s belated comeback for a 58-53 victory to advance to a district semifinal next Tuesday against the winner of Friday’s other sectional final between Pymatuning Valley and Burton Berkshire.
Mike Morris had a double-double of 14 points and 10 rebounds while Jacob Jaros added 14 points and Matt Szorady 13 to lead LaBrae (14-7), which limited Girard to only five offensive rebounds, including just two in the first half.
Jaros was 5-for-7 from the field and also pulled down seven rebounds.
The Vikings enjoyed an overall 38-24 advantage off the boards, and had a 17-8 free-throw advantage.
“The kids never gave up and have been doing that all year,” said coach Nick Cochran of Girard (6-16). But, “We were missing our shots and not getting the rebounds. We were not getting any second shots.”
Girard was shooting too many long-range shots, and not making them, he said.
“We were not crashing the boards like we should have been doing. We didn’t attack the glass,” said Cochran.
Coach Chad Kiser of LaBrae said rebounding was the key to victory.
“They were taking long shots from the outside and we were getting the rebounds,” said Kiser, noting that wasn’t the case the last time they played. “They hurt us from the outside [shooting] at our place last time.
“Their offensive rebounding killed us the last game. Our [objective] was to keep them off the offensive boards.”
But Kiser lauded Girard’s comeback.
“They got kids who can play hard,” he said. “They get after it. They erased a 10-point lead to five [in the waning seconds]. They never give up.”
Adam Charles led Girard with 22 points, including four 3-point goals and 13 of the Indians’ 26 points in the final quarter. He also had five rebounds.
Mat Pagano added 12 points.