GRAND VALL. 50
Next: LaBrae vs. Newton Falls or Berkshire, Saturday, 3 p.m., at Howland High School.
By Jon Moffett
Carl Brown couldn’t stop coughing in the locker room after his best game of the season.
The LaBrae High sophomore battled flu-like symptoms as well as defenders in his school’s district semifinal against Grand Valley High. Brown was victorious against the opponents, helping snag an 82-50 victory. But the cold? Not so much.
“Carl was a little bit under the weather. He’s kind of got like a little cold or something going on,” LaBrae coach Chad Kiser said. “He’s got a little phlegm buildup in there and he was losing his breath a little bit. And he didn’t get a regular break until the second half.”
But it seemed like the worse Brown felt, the better he played. The only thing he was throwing up were jump shots and layups. And most of them went down smooth.
Brown had 18 points on the night, which was good for second on the team. Junior Matt Szorady led all scorers with 21 points. The two guards did most of the grunt work early as the Mustangs (20-2) tried to key in on the Vikings’ big men.
The Vikings (20-2) also got 12 points out of 6-foot-4 senior Jacob Jaros and 11 points and 13 rebounds out of 6-5 freshman Peyton Aldridge. The pair combined for just seven points in the first half as Grand Valley tried to take them out of the game.
“What we were trying to do initially was make their guards beat us,” Grand Valley coach Luke Strohm said. “We wanted to keep the ball out of the bigs’ hands by pressuring the guards rather than posting up so much on the big guys. We just don’t have the height to do that.”
The plan worked to an extent. The big guys were held in check for the most part.
But when the defense focused on the guards, it opened up the lanes for scoring. The Vikings had 22 points in the second quarter and 30 in the third. Pretty soon the Mustangs were looking up in a lot of ways.
Junior guard A.J. Henson was the team’s saving grace. The shaggy-haired shooter scored a team-high 19 points. But even he had a hard time. Ten of his points came on 15 attempts from the free-throw line. The others were deep 3s.
The Vikings were just too tough. The team went to the foul line 31 times and sank 18 of them. Brown was 6-of-9 from the charity stripe. Aldridge was 5-of-8.
Kiser said any time a team can get to the foul line that many times it has good chance of winning.
“That, I think, was part of us running the floor and attacking the basket was because we got to the free-throw line,” he said. “They had to foul us. If they weren’t fouling us, we were getting layups.”
Part of the Vikings’ monster second half came from the foul line, too. The team had gone 7-of-13 in the first half, but focused in to go 11-of-18 in the second.
Strohm said his team looked like it had lost some of its intensity in the second half. He said the dramatic difference at the foul line was indicative of a lethargic start to the third quarter.
“I think in the second half, it was really going to come down to who made the run,” he added. “And LaBrae is a heck of a team. We ran into a buzzsaw in the third quarter there.”