NEWTON FALLS - There is a lot to account for when preparing to play the LaBrae Vikings basketball team.
The unbeaten Vikings possess one of the best players in the area in 6-foot-7 Peyton Aldridge. They also boast accurate shooters, slashing guards and a defense that can be tough to solve.
Newton Falls coach Roy Sembach is quite familiar with LaBrae and all it has to offer. He's in his 26th year coaching, and his Tigers have been in the same conference as the Vikings for most of that time, so he's seen nearly everything LaBrae and coach Chad Kiser has to offer.
Tribune Chronicle / Dave Dermer
LaBrae’s Carl Brown (15) dribbles to the basket around Newton Falls’ Logan Harrah.
He admittedly forgot about one thing on Friday. His name was Marcell Richardson.
The 6-2 forward scored 21 points and hit a number of key buckets for the Vikings in their 60-47 victory over cross-town rival Newton Falls.
"Their post guys are very hard workers and really good players, but they haven't scored a great deal on the year, and Richardson had a great night scoring," Sembach said. "That was the one thing that I'd say we didn't account for that they did a great job of tonight."
Richardson was a force inside the paint from start to finish for the Vikings (6-0, 3-0 All-American Conference, National Division). His most crucial field goals came late in the game with Newton Falls (2-5, 2-1) making a comeback. The Tigers, who trailed by 15 at one point in the third quarter, were within seven midway through the fourth quarter and on the brink of a huge upset. But just as they did all night, the Vikings threw the ball down low to Richardson, who put a nice spin move on the defender and was fouled while making an easy lay in. The move was one the powerful Richardson has been polishing for weeks.
"I work on that all the time in practice," Richardson said. "It's hard to stop."
It certainly was against Newton Falls. Richardson used the same move a few minutes later to bump the Vikings' lead to 50-38, and he was fouled again. While he missed the free throw this time, the bucket swung the momentum back to LaBrae during a point when the Tigers were in a zone from 3-point land.
It appeared Newton Falls might be blown out as it trailed 35-20 and was struggling to generate much offense early in the third quarter, but the Tigers' Chris Greathouse suddenly found his rhythm from outside, hitting three of his four 3-pointers in the third period. Another 3, this time by Kenny Hall, and a mid-range jumper by Dale Kernen finished a 9-2 run that trimmed LaBrae's lead to five and capped a colossal turnaround for Newton Falls.
"We just completely lost our concentration," Kiser said. "We came out in the second half, played well, got a big lead there, and then just quit working defensively - giving up open shot after open shot and then offensive rebounds. And then we came down and had about three or four empty trips on offense in a row where we just settled for a quick drive instead of running an offense. And we knew we had an advantage on the inside."
LaBrae entered the fourth quarter up, 39-34, and that's when Aldridge and Richardson came to life. Aldridge, a junior and a returning Division III All-Ohio player, scored seven of his 14 in the fourth, and Richardson added 11 of his game-high 21. That offset the eight total 3-pointers by the Tigers and allowed LaBrae to pull away in the final minutes.
"Peyton draws so much attention that the other guys, it makes it easier on them," Kiser said. "And Marcell just played a like a man tonight. He's been working hard, and he's had a couple (good games) in a row. He gives you a big guy who can run the floor and finish strong, and he was just huge tonight."