CORTLAND - After opening a 50-6 halftime lead, the LaBrae Vikings began thinking more about the long-term future than what might happen in the second half of their game against the Lakeview Bulldogs Tuesday.
The win was no longer in doubt at intermission. All Vikings coach Chad Kiser wanted to see was a complete effort from start to finish as part of his preparation for what he hopes will be a deep postseason run.
That mission wasn't accomplished to Kiser's satisfaction. The Vikings played spotty at times in the second half on their way to a 77-19 All-American Conference, National Division win.
Lakeview had an 11-2 scoring advantage to open the second half before LaBrae returned to normal to score the final 11 points of the third quarter.
"We played in the first half to make a real deep tournament run," Kiser said. "The second half we played like a team that might get out of district and might not. You have to play four quarters if you want to win come tournament time. The last thing we talked about is 'do you want to be a good team or do you want to be a great team?' Great teams have to play like we did in the first half for four quarters."
The first half was almost a perfect example of precision basketball by the 7-0 Vikings (4-0 in the AAC). Peyton Aldridge, a 6-7 junior, scored 21 of his game-high 24 points and Marcell Richardson added 10 of his 12 points.
The Vikings, who led 30-6 after the first period, dominated the boards with the rebounding prowess of Aldridge. They scored with ease from inside and turned 15 first-half turnovers by the Bulldogs into numerous easy points.
"That's just about as good as we've played this year," said Aldridge, who grabbed 16 rebounds. "We played very well."
The Bulldogs (1-6, 0-3) played without the services of coach Craig Mild, who was absent due to an illness. Assistant coach Austin Handrych had the misfortune of facing a talented opponent that brought its 'A' game.
"Aldridge is good but they have a complete team from top to bottom," Handrych said. "They all score well. They have shooters. They have kids that slash. They know the game. They know where to be, and they know what to do. That was a really good first half, defensively and offensively."
There wasn't much the Bulldogs could do to stop Aldridge from scoring. He also did a superb job of running the offense from the outside, adding to what is a complete package.
"In the second half we got a little sloppy there," Aldridge said. "We just have to keep our focus because there are better teams out there, and we want to make a long run into the postseason. We need to keep our focus and play our game."
It was strange to see the Vikings drift off message for a short period of time in the third quarter. Kiser took a timeout at one point to strongly ask the players if they wanted to play or not.
His words hit home. LaBrae finished the third period with a strong run, leading to a 14-2 fourth quarter.
"We came out (in the third quarter), and I don't know it we ran one halfcourt set or one out of bounds play correctly," Kiser said. "Little mistakes with no mental focus to execute in our halfcourt. We picked it up a little better in the fourth quarter.
"It's tough to be upset. We have Poland on Tuesday at our place. If we play like we did in the third quarter, we won't give up 11; we'll give up 25 points. Poland will be mentally focused. We have to make sure we do that and match them for four quarters."
Lakeview is at Ashtabula Edgewood Tuesday.