LaBrae continues to pile up basketball victories
By Steve ruman
LaBrae High School basketball coach Chad Kiser remembers the Vikings’ last regular season loss like it was yesterday.
“Oh yeah, at Girard, they handled us pretty well,” Kiser said Tuesday after LaBrae defeated Niles 69-39 for the Vikings’ 44th consecutive regular-season win. “I remember everything about that game. I remember all of the losses, they stick with you a lot longer than the wins.”
While it may seem like just yesterday for Kiser, the reality is, that LaBrae-Girard game took place two years ago.
The Vikings (19-0) haven’t lost a regular-season game since.
Elijah Whiteside came off the LaBrae bench to lead all scorers with 17 points. The Vikings’ offense was also aided by Tyler Stephens and Benton Tennant, who scored 15 and 14, respectively.
Niles was paced by Cylar Kane-Johnson (11 points) and Jalen Royal-Eiland (nine points).
Niles (3-16) had the upper hand for most of the first quarter, as the Red Dragons built an early 8-3 advantage, and led 13-9 six minutes into the game.
However, Stephens gave LaBrae its first lead at 14-13 on a layup just before the end of the first quarter, and the Vikings never looked back.
Whiteside scored 11 of his points in the second period to help the Vikings build a 28-19 halftime advantage.
“When you win 44 straight, you get everyone’s best shot every night,” Kiser said. “We started out a little slow. We didn’t rotate well on defense, and offensively we were settling for first shots rather than best shots.
“Elijah gave us a huge boost in that second quarter. Then we came out after halftime and picked up the tempo, rebounded really well and moved without the basketball. We played really good as a team, which has been our key. Every game, we seem to have a different player lead in scoring.”
After its loss to Girard (Feb. 2, 2016), LaBrae won its final four games of the regular season. The Vikings went 21-0 a year ago.
LaBrae junior Logan Kiser said that as the Vikings continue to win, “opponents start to notice, and every game feels like a tournament atmosphere.”
He noted that the Vikings have played in a number of games this year in front of standing-room-only crowds.
“We know we have a bulls-eye on our back, which I think in a way is a good thing because it makes us focus that much more,” Logan Kiser said. “And honestly, our ultimate goal is to make a long run in the tournament. We don’t put any emphasis on the streak, but at the same time it helps get us ready for March.”
LaBrae is ranked fourth in Division III in the Associated Press statewide poll.