LaBrae unable to match Edgewood’s second-half surge
By Greg Gulas
For one half on Friday night, the LaBrae Vikings looked like the defending Division III district champions.
It was the second half that proved to be their undoing.
Jacob Zappitelli’s 15 points led four Ashtabula Edgewood players in double figures as the top-seeded Warriors overcame a five-point halftime deficit for a 54-39 win over the second-seeded Vikings at Warren Harding High School.
Hayden Kanicki added 13 points, Sam Jerman and Aaron Anderson 10 for Edgewood, which now advances and will meet Mogadore — a 43-40 winner over Canton Central Catholic on Friday — in the regional semifinals at the Canton Fieldhouse at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“Our defense was locked in right from the start,” Vikings head coach Chad Kiser said. “We pressured the ball and did a great job on their point guard, Aaron Anderson, to get them out of their offense.”
A triple by Tyler Stephens and buckets by Walt Allie and Elijah Whiteside helped the Vikings (20-5) race to the early 8-0 advantage.
It took a little over five minutes before Edgewood (24-1) got on the board, that coming at 2:51 of the opening frame on a bucket in the lane by Richard Baldwin.
LaBrae led 10-7 after the opening period of play.
The Vikings were just as stingy in the second quarter, holding the one-loss Warriors to just two triples while Stephens added his second bucket from behind the arc to help LaBrae to an 18-13 halftime margin.
“Credit their defense because we really didn’t have a good night offensively. We didn’t shoot the ball well all night,” Kiser said. “I felt like we should have had 24 or 25 points at halftime. We had too many empty trips.
“After halftime, Edgewood just knocked down shots. They hit 3s and those were daggers.”
The Warriors nailed five of their nine triples in the third period — two each from Jerman and Zappitelli — holding the Vikings to just eight points as the opened a 33-26 lead after three quarters.
Edgewood outscored LaBrae 21-13 in the fourth and 41-21 in the second half for their 11th road win in 12 outings. The Warriors beat their All-American Conference rivals twice in the regular season.
“The last three years our seniors won 68 games [they were 68-8 overall] and they’ve been a great group since junior high,” Kiser said. “They’re not just good athletes, they are great young men who helped validate our program.”
Allie, one of four senior starters, finished with a team-high 12 points.
“The past four years have been amazing,” Allie said. “This is my last year, coach Kiser is a great coach to play for and the last few games I worked really hard, it just wasn’t to be tonight.”
Stephens and Benton Tennant each finished with eight points for the Vikings.
“It was a great ride. I love this team, we just came up short tonight,” said Stephens, who is headed to the University of Buffalo on a football scholarship in the fall. “Edgewood has some great shooters. Give them credit because they hit from everywhere on the court tonight.”