By Brandon Judeh
On Friday night, Newton Falls dedicated their gymnasium to former head coach Gene Zorn, whose career spanned four decades from the 1950s to the 1980s.
Later, LaBrae christened the freshly named court with a 52-46 victory, continuing its recent domination of the Tigers.
In fact, the Vikings’ current senior class has never lost to Newton Falls.
“At the varsity level these seniors have never lost to this team, so that is great, but it was such a wonderful night to be a part of the dedication,” Vikings head coach Chad Kiser said. “If I can inspire just a small fraction of the students and players that Gene Zorn did I would be very happy.”
After a nearly 45 minute ceremony honoring coach Zorn concluded, LaBrae took the court and came out on fire as Aldridge and company quickly grabbed an eight point lead.
“We did a nice job of executing right off the bat and after that we did a nice job of really holding the lead,” added Kiser. “I felt we turned it over a little too much though and our defense did a great job for the first three quarters, but struggled a little bit in the fourth quarter.”
The Vikings, however, would take advantage of several Tigers turnovers and carry an 11-point lead into the locker room.
Newton Falls (6-6, 1-5 All-American Conference, National Division) would hang strong in the second half, cutting the deficit to single digits on two occasions, but for every mini-run by the Tigers, LaBrae (10-2, 4-1) had an answer.
Whether it was a Peyton Aldridge 3-pointer in the third quarter, or a clutch shot by Justin Jenkins, the Vikings were determined to hang on.
Aldridge led LaBrae with 17 points and 12 rebounds and Marcell Richardson added 10 points and eight boards, but it was Jenkins who proved to be the key to the victory.
The junior scored a career-high 16 points and had four assists.
“It felt good to be able to step up for my team tonight,” Jenkins said. “This just goes to show that if us role players can step up and have big games then we are pretty much unstoppable.”
Despite the loss Newton Falls head coach Roy Sembach says this was a special night — perhaps the biggest night in Newton Falls history — as he and the Tigers’ faithful finally got to honor Zorn.
“Coach Zorn is a wonderful man and it felt great to be able to express to everyone how much he meant to me over the years and what an honor it was to coach under him,” said an emotional Sembach, who played for Zorn at Newton Falls.
“To have a lot of his former players and students come out to honor him tonight was very special, it’s something I will never forget.”
Chris Greathouse led the Tigers with 13 points and Ozzie Hawkins had 11 points and six assists.
Sophomore Jaden Walton added eight points.