Leaving legacies

LEAVITTSBURG – There were times when Rick Aldridge watched his son Peyton on the basketball court and wondered how he did it.

How, that is, Peyton dealt with the constant attention paid to him each game by opponents for most of the last four seasons as the star player for the LaBrae Vikings. Now standing a lean 6-foot-7, Peyton was comfortable doing about anything, from running the offense at the point to playing on a wing or posting low.

It was a nightmare scenario for opposing coaches. Their only recourse was to play a collapsing, double-team style defense around Peyton.

Through the tangled mess of arms and legs, and the constant pushing and pulling, Peyton somehow maintained his cool.

“I don’t know how he became that way,” Rick said. “I was so intense and I was kind of a mean guy. He’s just the opposite.”

Peyton did more than harness his frustrations. He fought through the challenges to carve out one of the best high school basketball careers in Trumbull County in a long time. Coupled with three seasons as the starting quarterback on the football team and four years as a pitcher and infielder on the baseball team, Peyton earned selection as the Tribune Chronicle’s Male Athlete of the Year.

Peyton is best known for his basketball performances, which earned him a scholarship to Davidson College near Charlotte, N.C. The list of basketball awards won in four seasons is lengthy, to say the least. Last season he was the All-Ohio District I Player of the Year and a first-team Division III All-State choice. He averaged 21 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and five blocks per game.

“He’s one of those that coaches like to call a once-in-a-lifetime player to have at a small school,” Vikings basketball coach Chad Kiser said. “He’s the total package of having the height, talent and work ethic on the court and in the offseason and in the classroom.

“He’s a complete leader. We got to see how great of an athlete he’s been. There are so many things we’re going to miss. He’s probably a better person than he was a basketball player, and that’s saying a lot because he’s an outstanding basketball player.”

With his bloodlines, Peyton was destined to develop into a talented athlete. His father was a multi-sport athlete at LaBrae, and his mother Lisa held the LaBrae career basketball scoring record of 1,548 points before Peyton broke it last season.

“Mom always talked about if she wanted her record to be broken, she wanted it to be by me,” said Peyton, who scored 1,735 career points and grabbed a school record 1,016 rebounds.

Peyton decided against playing football last season so as not to jeopardize any chances of earning the scholarship with Davidson, despite being told the offer wouldn’t be canceled if he had been injured.

Peyton received some notice from football college recruiters, but they knew basketball was his first choice. He earned first team All-American Conference football honors as a sophomore. In his junior season, he was all-district honorable mention and a finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame/U.S. Army Award of Excellence.

Rick coached Peyton in baseball, which is another sport he took to naturally. Last season he hit .357 and led the Vikings in RBIs with 19 and steals with 22. When pitcher Blake Sprague hurt a shoulder, Peyton became the number-one pitcher. He finished the season with a 4-3 record and a 2.16 earned-run average, striking out 55 in 42 innings.

“I love playing those two sports,” Peyton said. “I began playing football in the seventh grade, and I’ve been playing baseball since I was little.”

It was basketball that put Peyton on the statewide map. As a junior, he was the driving force for LaBrae’s run to the Division III state tournament, ending with a loss to Versailles in the semifinals.

“It was a great experience,” Peyton said. “Getting to play at Ohio State was great. The time I spent with my teammates there was a blast.”

The next step for Peyton will be significant. Davidson has a rich history of basketball success that includes many trips to the NCAA tournament. Basketball, as Peyton is about to find out, is ingrained deeply into the sporting fabric of that area.

Davidson is coached by Bob McKillop, who is about to enter his 25th season at the helm. McKillop has seen many a talented prospect, and from what he’s told people, he expects Peyton to have an immediate impact.

“Watching Davidson play this year, it’s a big step,” Rick said. “The players are bigger, faster and stronger, but it looks like a good fit for him.

“I don’t want to get my hopes too high. I don’t want him to see disappointment in me if he’s not playing as much as I’d like. Their coach said he expects Peyton to go in there and have an impact on the team. That’s not saying he’s starting, but I think he’ll get some time. I’ll just be happy when he’s on the floor.”

You can be certain that Kiser will keep a close watch on Peyton’s development.

“I look for him to get a lot of playing time,” Kiser said. “The kid he is, he’ll keep working. He’s not going to get out-worked.”

Peyton graduated with a 3.95 grade-point average in his senior year. He’s undecided on his major.

Leaving legacies

CORTLAND – The moment has never been too big for Alli Pavlik.

With a district semifinal soccer game against Niles McKinley nearing the penalty-kick phase at the end of a second overtime, Pavlik did what she did 137 times during her career at Lakeview High School – scored a goal.

When Pavlik needed four goals to reach 100 for her career in a match against Poland, she decided not to spread the chore out over two matches. She nearly put a hole into the net by scoring six goals.

“She’s a goal scorer, pure and simple,” Bulldogs soccer coach Shawn Varley said. “When she gets the ball on her feet, she wants to score. Even as a freshman, I knew that in four years she would be the best player to come out of Lakeview.”

It’s one thing to be considered the best player in school history at one sport. When the same can be said for the same athlete in another sport, it’s easy to see why Pavlik was named the Tribune Chronicle’s Female Athlete of the Year. Put a basketball in Pavlik’s hands, and she’s equally as adept at scoring. At 1,568 career points, Pavlik has raised the bar high for the next Lakeview athlete who goes after the school record.

Pavlik was born to be leading the charge from the front. A natural striker, she was at home in finishing off offensive rushes in soccer. Basketball coach Adam Lewis realized early in Pavlik’s high school days that he needed to place her at the point of the defense, where she could use her quick hands, instincts and speed to create turnovers and inevitably score on the other end.

The biggest challenge on game nights was for Pavlik’s father, Bob, to keep focused on Alli’s quick transition from defense to offense. There had to be times when he thought he was working a tennis match.

“She really kind of helped to put the program back on the map,” Lewis said. “On the basketball court, she was able to do things that I haven’t seen. She was able to stand out the last two seasons. She’s a phenomenal athlete.”

Along the way, Pavlik was able to balance playing with a sharp competitive edge while having fun. On and off the court or pitch, she exhibited leadership qualities and was as comfortable being interviewed as she was driving to the basket.

The outgoing side of Pavlik helped in her goal of becoming a role model for younger girls. She lists former women’s national soccer team star Mia Hamm as the athlete she likes to follow on Twitter. In a way, she played the Hamm role to young girls in the Cortland area.

“The biggest thing as a senior was to make a good impression for the younger girls,” Pavlik said. “When I was a freshman, we were 4-16 (in basketball). I didn’t want to come out (the next season). We were bad. As seniors, we needed a good run for our coaches because that means little girls will want to come out and play for them.”

Being the star in two sports created a problem for Pavlik when deciding on which of the two to pursue in college. In the end, she stayed with her first love and will play soccer at Ohio Dominican College.

“It’s going to be hard for me in college not to play basketball,” Pavlik said. “A lot of people ask me if I’m going to play (basketball). I’ve thought about seeing what the coaches (at Ohio Dominican) would say if I asked them. It’s probably not going to happen because my scholarship is for soccer. It was one of the hardest choices I’ve had to make in my life.”

Pavlik topped off her high school soccer career with 43 goals last season, which tied for the most by any boy or girl in any division in Ohio. She was the Division II Northeast Inland District Player of the Year and a first team all-state selection. Her career total of 137 goals is fifth all-time in Ohio.

Obviously, Pavlik played soccer with a scorer’s mentality.

“If she gets the ball on her feet, it’s going in the back of the net,” Varley said. “Her speed and her physical presence contributed a lot to her excellence.”

Pavlik took the same approach to basketball, which Lewis used to the maximum. She often looked like a soccer defender as she tracked opponents in search of a steal. When teammates forced steals, they usually tried to get the ball into her hands, which is why most of her points came on drives and not from the perimeter.

“I remember when I first came out for the (basketball) team,” Pavlik said. “People would bounce the ball in front of me, and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t take the ball and go. That was my mentality. It got me far. I’m not the best shooter. I didn’t have time to go out and practice because I was busy with soccer.”

Pavlik had a school-record 156 steals last season, placing her 22nd all-time in Ohio. Her 423 career steals (another school record) is 24th all-time in Ohio. She was first team Division II All-State and the Northeast District Player of the Year, while finishing as a finalist for Ohio’s Miss Basketball. Pavlik averaged 26.9 points, 6.2 steals and 3.8 assists per game in her senior season. She scored 56 points against Campbell Memorial.

“Anybody we put on the floor, she – head and shoulders – could do more athletically than they could,” Lewis said. “She was faster and stronger. I watched her play at an open gym (this summer). It’s unbelievable to watch how athletic she is. You can’t coach that.”

Pavlik graduated 23rd in a class of 158. Her plan is to major in business and then see where life takes her after graduation from Ohio Dominican. She credits her parents, Bob and Jodi, and coaches for their guidance.

“I was so glad to play for them (her coaches),” she said. “I’m going to miss them.”

The feeling is mutual.