It was too good a game for this early in the season.
LaBrae (3-0) went wire-to-wire in a tight game against perennially successful Poland and came out on top, 56-54, Friday night.
“If we can come to Poland, with their athletes, and hold them to 54, I’m happy with that,” LaBrae coach Chad Kiser said following the game in which his team overcame a 36-30 halftime deficit.
Petyon Aldridge had 19 points for the Vikings, who made 21 of 26 free throws, including 12 of 14 in the fourth quarter. Colin Reardon had a game-high 25 points for Poland (0-1).
A low five-turnover game also helped the visitors.
The 6-foot-7 Aldridge made 10 of 11 foul shots and played a key role defensively, especially in the late stages when the Vikings utilized a 1-3-1 defense with Aldridge patrolling the front.
“His wingspan helped cover up the high post area and, at the same time, we were taking away the wings,” Kiser said. “We did a nice job of not giving them any good looks. It was just a matter of all five guys moving on every pass.”
John Richards added 17 points for the winners, whose previous wins were against Hubbard and Niles.
Despite a stretch of a third quarter when LaBrae — actually Aldridge himself — outscored Poland, 12-0, the Bulldogs responded and made a dent in the deficit.
But the Vikings switched defenses.
“We were hesitant to go zone, but they were hurting us a little off the man-to-man because we may have been tired down the stretch,” Kiser said.
“That’s when we switched up our zones and I think that kept them off balance. Maybe they didn’t know if we were going to trap or not.”
LaBrae’s Carl Brown made contributions down the stretch, with a few tips, a big steal and rebound and a foul shot with 0.8 seconds left.
“He was a starter last year, but, right now, he’s being pretty unselfish coming off the bench when we rotated 2-3 guys every couple minutes in the first half to stay fresh for the second half,” Kiser said.
Poland made just 6 of 13 free throws, but it was only part of the story.
“We had a hard time trying to get everything together,” Poland coach Ken Grisdale said of not having had a game prior to Friday. “I’m pleased with our kids, but you’ve got to make free throws and lay-ups to win basketball games.
Poland’s scheduled opener on Dec. 6 against Girard was put off until late February.
“I told our kids that LaBrae would give us a game to let us know where we are [in development]. I think the things that can be worked on, like Xs and Os, is a good place to start. We know from this loss that we have something to build on.”
Grisdale’s staff said that the consensus is that LaBrae is one of the top teams in the area at this point in the season.
“I watched them twice and I was pretty nervous coming in, wondering how we were going to handle the situation. But I think our kids played as hard as they could, but we could improve a lot.”