HUBBARD - The Hubbard Eagles are the first team this season to take aim at the bullseye on the back of the LaBrae Vikings and miss the target.
Eagles coach Rick Fox shouldn't feel bad after the Vikings' 56-38 win in an All-American Conference basketball game here Friday. Twenty-one more regular-season opponents will be lining up to take shots in the coming months, with most of them likely suffering the same fate that befell the Eagles.
"I tried to move the game because of the football season," Fox said half-jokingly. "You don't like to play a good team without seeing them. That's the second year in a row we played them. Last year they took it to us pretty good."
All eyes in the area will be focused on the Vikings, who return first-team All-Ohio selection Peyton Aldridge from last season's 22-1 team. LaBrae lived up to the hype in opening a 32-15 halftime lead and never being challenged on the strength of Aldridge's game-high 20 points.
The Vikings moved the ball well on offense and played sound defense in the first half, not allowing a point in the second quarter until Jordan Thompson made a field goal 1:20 before intermission. It wasn't a perfect half, but for the first game of the season it certainly wasn't bad.
The second half didn't measure up as well in the estimation of Vikings coach Chad Kiser.
"I came in at halftime and was happy about everything," Kiser said. "We missed a few easy ones, and in the second half it just multiplied. I think it was the fatigue. In our halfcourt sets we didn't execute. We were missing screens. Our timing was off. Mental concentration is what we have to improve on."
The Vikings seemed to put it on cruise control in the second half. They didn't show as much energy as they did in the first half, which is something Kiser will work on next week in preparing for Ursuline.
"It's always nice to get the first win under your belt, but we kind of let up a little bit in the fourth quarter and didn't play well," Aldridge said. "We have to stay mentally focused and take care of business."
The Vikings made it look easy in a first half that saw Aldridge score 10 points. Trailing 4-0 at the start, LaBrae scored 15 of the next 20 point to close the first period with a 15-9 advantage. Aldridge made four field goals in the second quarter as LaBrae began pulling away. The Vikings scored 16 unanswered points during a stretch from late in the first period until Thompson's fielder late in the second period.
LaBrae was never seriously challenged in the second half. The Vikings scored nine of the first 13 points in the third period on the way to a 46-28 lead entering the final session.
"We know every team is going to be out to get us, so we know we have to bring our best game every game," Aldridge said.
John Richards made three shots from 3-point territory in scoring 11 points for the Vikings. Thompson finished with 17 points, and Darnell Tate added 10 for the Eagles.
"We said (at halftime) we had to pick it up defensively," Fox said. "They were getting what they wanted with Aldridge. Our offense is going to come through our defense. We did a better job in the second half. The kids didn't quit."
The Eagles are at Girard Friday. LaBrae plays Ursuline in the Hope Classic at Struthers Fieldhouse Saturday, Dec. 8.
"Mentally we got tired," Kiser said. "It's not going to be a score like that next Saturday when we play Ursuline. They're going to run with us as much as we want to run. We're going to have to get some conditioning done this week."