LEAVITTSBURG - This time the LaBrae Vikings were serious.
The show the Vikings staged in a 16-point loss to the Campbell Memorial Red Devils earlier this season was seriously ugly in the eyes of Vikings coach Chad Kiser. LaBrae was undefeated at the time and perhaps still feeling cocky after a trip to the Division III state semifinals last season.
The Vikings didn't make the same mistake a second time. Playing with a more noticeable sense of urgency, LaBrae parlayed a 19-point third quarter into a 59-50 win in an All-American Conference, National Division game Friday.
"They kind of caught us a little by surprise," Vikings senior Peyton Aldridge said of the earlier game. "I think we overlooked them a little bit. After they took it to us the first time, we wanted to make sure we focused and got it back tonight."
It was a big conference win for the Vikings, who are 12-3 and 5-1 in the AAC. The Devils are 9-5 and 8-2 in the conference.
Aldridge had his normal well-rounded game with 15 points, 12 rebounds and two slam dunks, but it was the combined play of his teammates that proved pivotal. Marcell Richardson, who was under the weather and didn't play in the first quarter, came off the bench to score 15 points. All nine of the players who logged time scored for LaBrae.
"In our better games we've been getting pretty good balance from Peyton, Justin (Jenkins) and Marcell," Kiser said. "Then our posts that we rotate are getting in theirs. I thought both Caelan Hyland and Blake Sprague played well, rebounding and finishing down low and getting to the free-throw line. They did a nice job of giving us some muscle."
The lead changed hands several times in the first half as the Vikings had leads of 13-10 after the first quarter and 23-21 at halftime. LaBrae went on a 10-3 run at the outset of the third quarter to stretch its advantage to 33-24.
The Vikings scored seven of the final nine points of the period to take a 42-32 lead. They sealed the win by making 13-of-25 foul shots in the final session.
Kiser wasn't pleased with performance at the line (18-of-34) or with the 17 turnovers committed by LaBrae.
"In the fourth quarter they came up with some pressure and we made some terrible passes," Kiser said. "We kind of panicked with the ball a little bit down the stretch and gave them some extra chances. Some of them were unforced. Fortunately, we had a little bit of a lead.
"Overall, I thought our effort was great; a lot better than the first time we played them. We just came of beating Mooney and Ursuline, and I think we thought we were top of the hill."
The Vikings, who have only one loss in the AAC National Division in nearly four straight seasons, have their sights set on a fourth consecutive title.
"Coach tells us that we're either going to be the first one to get four straight or be the first one not to get it," Aldridge said. "We really want to focus on going out there and getting it."
Daron Clinkscale scored 16 points for the Red Devils. D.J. Harrison had 10.