Newton Falls. LaBrae. Arguably the two best boys basketball teams in this area.
Tonight, they collide in this long-standing rivalry inside the confines of the LaBrae High School Gymnasium. Tipoff for the varsity game is roughly at 7:30 p.m.
LaBrae enters with an 8-0 record. Newton Falls is 6-1 with a stumble on Dec. 20 against the Fitch Falcons.
Newton Falls' Cody Dillon had 22 points, seven rebounds, and six assists Tuesday against Southeast. The 6-foot-4 senior seems to be out of offensive funk he was in for the past couple of games. It wasn't like he didn't have the available shots, but they weren't going down.
It isn't all Dillon for the Tigers. Chase Nichols has been a steady force the last couple of games, scoring in double figures for Newton Falls.
Dale Kernan has been a decent double-figure scorer for the Tigers as well, but he was held to two points in Tuesday's win.
Newton Falls needs a balanced attack to hold off the defensive-minded Vikings tonight.
Speaking of LaBrae, the Vikings have had close games at Poland and at home against Brookfield.
Peyton Aldridge, the 6-7 sophomore two-guard, has been a force on the outside and inside - especially in Tuesday's win against Howland. Aldridge used his length to adjust many of the Tigers' shots en route to the team's 74-66 victory.
Carl Brown, Carrington Herron and John Richards are good in their own right as well, but the key to tonight's game lies in the Vikings' point guard - Matt Szorady.
The 5-8 senior is truly a game changer. It was his last-second 3-pointer that lifted the Vikings past Brookfield and it will be his propencity to shoot the 3 that may be the difference in tonight's game.
If Newton Falls wants to beat its archrival, containing Szorady is a huge key.
However, as much as some might think this will be a high-scoring affair since both teams readily put up about 70-75 points per game, expect a game in the 40s packed with a fair share of steals and lock down, zone defenses.
Tonight is a battle for the All-American Conference, National Division and the game later this season at Newton Falls, most likely, will be for the division title.
ELKINS HONORED: Tonight, former LaBrae basketball player Andre Elkins is being honored for his feats off the hardwood.
In early June, Elkins jumped 22-feet, 5.75 inches to win the Division II state track and field boys long jump title.
He was the first LaBrae athlete to win gold since one of the best sprinters to come through this area, Bobby Cruse, won seven state titles in his tenure during the 1990s.
Cruse, who later competed at Kent State University, won three 100-meter dash and three 200 titles, along with a 400 crown.