By Doug Chapin
For the second consecutive season LaBrae High was the top seed in the Division III boys basketball sectional-district tournament at Howland High. And for the second consecutive season the Vikings saw their season come to an end at the hands of Burton Berkshire.
The fifth-seeded Badgers defeated LaBrae, 48-46, Monday night in a district semifinal. Berkshire (17-6), the winner of 12 in a row, will play in the championship game Friday night against Ursuline or Newton Falls. Those two meet tonight in the other semifinal.
“They all hurt but the position that we were in this year and our seniors, they way they led our team all year, this one hurts a lot more,” LaBrae coach Chad Kiser said when asked to compare the two defeats.
A year ago Berkshire won 55-52 in the district title game. But this year the Vikings (22-1) came in undefeated and were ranked second in the state in the final Associated Press poll.
“We had our shots. Like I told the kids we had five or six chances there down the stretch,” Kiser said. “It was different guys. One time we took an early shot when we were right there with a tie score. We missed a couple easy ones, made a couple extra passes where we should have powered it up. We fumbled the ball around a ton tonight.”
Peyton Aldridge led LaBrae with 19 points and also grabbed seven rebounds. Matt Szorady had eight points and seven rebounds, John Richards scored 10 points and Carrington Herron grabbed eight rebounds.
Tim Goff led Berkshire with 20 points and eight rebounds and Kyle Blair added 12 points.
“Ultimately it starts defensively,” Berkshire coach Pete Moran said. “You look at the last eight seconds and [Erick] Burzanko, who missed a free throw, came back and got a game-winning steal.
“I thought the little plays he made were ultimately the key in the ballgame. Not necessarily the plays he made statistically, but the little things, the extra effort plays, the loose balls he got to. He played with a lot of energy and that’s something we needed tonight, especially in an environment like this.”
The winning score came on an inside bucket by Goff with 1:08 remaining in the game. After Szorady missed a 3-pointer, Herron rebounded but the Vikings lost the ball on a turnover. LaBrae regained possession, but Aldridge missed on a drive.
Burzanko rebounded and was fouled. He missed the front end of a one-and-one with eight seconds left, but when Szoradey drove and tried to pass back out to Aldridge, Burzanko was there to intercept.
“I think we were a little bit tight down the stretch. I think that pressure all year long has been on their shoulders, it’s tough,” Kiser said. “We haven’t been in a lot of these situations. We got the ball, I thought, in the right hands but it just didn’t fall. You’re going to have those nights. The ball wasn’t going our way tonight.”