Vikings bounce Beachwood for first state trip
By Joe Scalzo
Thirty-one seconds into the second quarter of Saturday’s Division III regional final, Beachwood junior Julio Stevens stood at the line and sank two free throws, prompting the LaBrae student section to chant “Fin-a-lly! Fin-a-lly!”
It was 17-2 at that point, which is the same thing as saying it was over at that point.
In the most lopsided victory since Germany over Poland (or John Daly over chocolate cheesecake), the Vikings handed the Bison a 59-30 beatdown at the Canton Fieldhouse to earn their first trip to Columbus.
“It’s that next stepping stone,” said LaBrae coach Chad Kiser. “We got the school record for wins for the third straight year — we’re up to 24 now — and we wanted to get that next step.
“To be able to do it means a lot for the program.”
Junior Peyton Aldridge, the two-time Northeast Inland district player of the year, finished with 14 points, 17 rebounds and seven blocks for the Vikings (24-3), who will meet Versailles in the state semifinal at 2 p.m. Thursday at Value City Arena.
“It’s better than I even thought,” said Aldridge, who has been attending state tournament games since he was a kid. “Going down there, I’m gonna be watching the games. Knowing I’ll be playing in one is just a blessing.”
LaBrae dominated from the start, utilizing a 3-2 zone that kept Beachwood’s rabbit-quick guard, John Davis, from penetrating, shutting down its offense. The Bison couldn’t shoot from outside — they were 0 for 24 from beyond the arc and were 2 of 42 from the field at one point — and whenever they did get inside, Aldridge was their to alter the shot, either by blocking it or threatening to.
“When did we decide to do that [defense]? Honestly, somewhere around 4 o’clock [Saturday],” said Kiser, whose team played a lot of zone during the regular season, but switched to man for much of the tournament. “It was solely to stop [Davis].”
At times, it looked like a 1-2-2 zone, but when a reporter tried to pin him down, Kiser smiled and said, “I don’t want to give away my secrets. It’s … it’s … it’s … I can’t say.
“It’s a good defense.”
Carl Brown and Marcell Richardson each added 15 points for LaBrae, which led 45-10 after three quarters. (LaBrae’s students chanted “Double digits!” when the Bison finally reached 10 with 9 seconds left in the third.)
“This isn’t a shock to us; we thought we could do this all along,” said Brown.
What, go to state or win by 30?
“We didn’t come in here thinking we would beat them by 30,” Brown said, laughing at the question. “We just wanted to play quarter by quarter and come through with the victory.”
Stevens scored 12 points and Davis (the Northeast Lakes district player of the year) had nine for Beachwood (23-4), which was out-rebounded 47-28 and finished 7 of 51 from the field.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well, but obviously they had a lot to do with that,” said Beachwood coach Jason Pecjak. “With Peyton in the middle, we couldn’t get to the rim and we weren’t able to make anything from the perimeter.
“That’s a bad combination.”