LEAVITTSBURG - Preparing for Peyton Aldridge is something Howland coach Bill Bogan has done several times since taking over the Tigers' program three years ago. And believe it or not, he has fun doing it.
The challenge of game-planning for the two-time all-state selection makes preparation interesting. The outcome makes it difficult.
"It's been a pleasure and a curse to coach against him the last three years," Bogan said. "We're glad to see him move on, but hate to see him move on also."
Bogan is a little happier to see him go after Friday.
Aldridge was his usual self, scoring 32 points and dominating the boards to help the Vikings beat Howland, 66-41, in a non-conference clash.
The 6-foot-8 senior was the key player in a second-quarter run that gave LaBrae (5-1) an insurmountable lead. He scored 12 points in a 14-2 spurt that pushed the Vikings' advantage to 32-12. He routinely grabbed rebounds off missed shot attempts and scored, deflating the Tigers (2-6) after they played solid initial defense for the majority of the possession.
"We take pride in rebounding, offensively and defensively," said Aldridge, a Davidson College commit. "More importantly, once we get the offensive rebound, we need to finish, too. We've had some trouble with that, but we're working on it, and we're starting to finish those now too."
Howland didn't let a lead that ballooned to 21 points affect its game plan. The Tigers started the third quarter on a 9-0 run that cut the lead to 10, but Aldridge and the Vikings responded with nine straight points to regain control. Howland committed four turnovers during the run, struggled to corral rebounds and missed open shots.
"We came out in the third quarter and didn't do anything different than what we said we wanted to do from the start of the game," Bogan said. "We cut it to 10 doing exactly what we wanted to do. Then we took three quick shots, and LaBrae takes advantage of every mistake you make. They were long rebounds, and they got out and ran and scored all three times and it was right back up there to 18."
The Tigers never got any closer.
Aldridge was the catalyst, but the young and inexperienced individuals around him seem to be finding their roles. Nine players scored for LaBrae, which shot 24 of 53 from the field (45 percent). Vikings coach Chad Kiser said LaBrae's long-term success will hinge on the improvement of the players surrounding Aldridge.
"The younger kids are picking it up," Kiser said. "They're taking better shots now and they have confidence. The early success helped that, and the older kids believe in them. And if they miss, you have Marcell (Richardson) and Peyton going in to rebound. Sometimes our best offense is getting a shot off and getting an offensive rebound."
LaBrae travels to Jackson High School in Massillon to take on Cleveland Central Catholic (7-0) at 4:15 p.m. today in the Play 4 Cancer Shootout. Howland travels to Poland on Friday.