By Greg Gulas
The LaBrae High basketball team knew it would be tested by Cardinal Mooney, despite the fact the Vikings already had two games under their belt and the Cardinals were playing their season opener.
A double-double by LaBrae’s Peyton Aldridge turned out to be the game neutralizer.
Aldridge scored a game-high 30 points, hauled down 17 rebounds and rejected six Cardinals shots as the Vikings stopped Cardinal Mooney, 66-56, in the nightcap of the second annual Hope Foundation High School Basketball Classic at the Struthers Fieldhouse.
Justin Jenkins added 13 markers and dished out five assists as LaBrae (3-0) never trailed in the game, permitting the Cardinals just three ties, all of which came in the first nine minutes of action.
“They took the outside away from us so we had to attack the basket. We had far too many turnovers, a bunch unforced down the stretch and we cannot do that if we expect to win,” Vikings coach Chad Kiser said. “You’ve earned the win when you beat a Brian Danilov-coached team and while we passed the test tonight, we must still work on some things in order to get better as a team.”
LaBrae raced to the early 11-3 advantage a little over two minutes into the game, but Joe Cunningham’s eight points keyed a 19-8 run by Cardinal Mooney (0-1) to knot the score at 22 heading to the second frame.
Aldridge notched the first seven points of the second stanza and with Jenkins pouring in seven of his 13 points in the opening half, the Vikings were able to open a 38-31 cushion at intermission.
“Cardinal Mooney applied pressure that we had yet to see this season so we had to be ready anytime we touched the ball,” Aldridge said. “We also had to make sure that they didn’t get many second chance opportunities.
“We play Ursuline on Tuesday and this was a good game to help us get ready for them. We still need to get better in some areas at both ends of the court.”
Jenkins was just happy to get a win before playing the Fighting Irish.
“Cardinal Mooney and Ursuline are similar teams in that they both apply plenty of pressure defensively. This was a good test for us tonight,” he said.
Two of Cunningham’s four triples came after intermission and helped Cardinal Mooney pull to within 49-45 after three periods of play.
Two buckets by Andrew Armstrong then pulled the Cardinals to within 53-51 with 4:07 remaining.
Seven points by Aldridge then keyed a 13-5 game-ending run to seal the victory for the Vikings.
“I wish we could play LaBrae a couple more times because they only make you better as a team,” Danilov said. “Peyton sure is a good player. He comes from a great family and the coaching staff has done an excellent job with him.
“We’re finally getting a feel for the game and our basketball legs are coming.
“I’m excited about this team because we have a great group of kids. We’re not a big team so we need to box out better and limit our opponents’ second chance points.”
The Vikings held a 41-28 rebounding advantage.