LaBRAE'S boys basketball team should reflect back on Saturday's victory in the Hope Classic: High School Basketball Showcase charity event and be very pleased.
This is a Vikings team that rolled through the 2011-12 regular season en route to a 20-0 record. They had some close games through that 20-0 rumble, but it wasn't the norm for LaBrae, although there were a chosen few last season.
On Saturday, the Vikings shot almost 50 percent from the floor in a 52-50 victory against Ursuline. Because of missed free throws in the fourth quarter, the Vikings made Saturday's game a lot closer that it should've been.
"We've got to make our free throws and easy bunnies," LaBrae coach Chad Kiser said.
Despite the Irish's 0-3 record, Ursuline remains a tough challenge for most teams because of the Irish's defense. However, the Vikings found a way to overcome that opposition.
LaBrae's team structure is more than 6-foot-7 All-Ohio junior guard/forward Peyton Aldridge, who will have almost every major college recruiting him before leaving the Vikings.
Aldridge had 16 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and was 5 of 5 from the line, but Carl Brown added 15 and John Richards put in 11 during the victory.
The Vikings are off to a 2-0 start, but the lessons they learned Saturday may serve LaBrae well for the rest of the season and beyond.
"Early in the season, you don't get a chance to get all of your game situations in - practicing last-second plays and those type of things," Kiser said. "You're more at this time of the year getting fundamentally sound and knowing your sets both offensively and defensively. More into the year, you get better so this is a good test for us to learn.
"Last year we weren't in this situation very often. For a lot of the guys, this is new. We played a couple guys that were new varsity guys down the stretch. They got that situation chance to learn. And, they got a feel for what we're good at defensively in those situations. Are we better at man-to-man? Do you want to zone or trap?"
SPEAKING of teams playing good early in the season, look at the Liberty boys team.
The Leopards are off to a 2-1 start and are far from reaching their potential.
Liberty made it to the second round of the Division IV football playoffs and have more than a handful of gridiron standouts on its team.
The Leopards are one of the most athletic teams in the area and going to be a force to be reckoned with as the season progresses.
Liberty, if it continues to get in some good practices and develops its athletic talent, will be one of those top-tier teams in the Division III sectional-district at Howland High School in a couple of months.
Then again, consider LaBrae and Ursuline up there with Liberty as well.
It should be fun come late February. For now, enjoy these high-level Division III teams.