LaBrae, minus Iler, still beats Falls

LEAVITTSBURG — Intensity. Nervousness. Rivalry.

The tension could be cut with a knife for the first two-and-a-half quarters of the Newton Falls-LaBrae basketball showdown Friday evening.

A bad stretch in the third quarter was the Tigers’ undoing as LaBrae came back to beat Newton Falls, 55-40.

“They’re a really good team,” Newton Falls coach Roy Sembach said of LaBrae. “When you play a really good team, you try to break the game down into smaller increments. We talked about four-minute increments. The last four minutes of the third quarter, they killed us. In that stretch, they outscored us by 14. The rest of the game was even.”

The game started tight with little offensive success for either team. Midway through the first, the score was 4-4. The Vikings scored the next six to to make it 10-4. Newton Falls sophomore Ivan Howard finished off the quarter with a nice lay-up to give LaBrae a 10-6 lead.

The task of beating LaBrae, ranked fourth in the lastest Division III state poll, is a challenge. It became more possible by the absence of star senior Aaron Iler. Iler rolled his ankle in practice Thursday. He was on crutches cheering on his teammates.

“I got X-rays and they came back negative,” Iler said. “The doc said to stay off of it for a few days.”

Luckily, for LaBrae, it is a deep, talented team. Tyler Stephens had his usual strong performance with 19 points. Senior Logan Kiser has one of the best all around games in the area, stepping up with 16 points.

“Logan Kiser is one of the very best players in the area,” Sembach said. “He does everything for them.”

A nice post up move by Kiser gave the Vikings a 12-6 lead to start the second quarter.

Freshman Josh Honeycutt hit a 3 for Newton Falls to cut LaBrae’s lead to one, 16-15. He and fellow freshman Joey Kline play big minutes for the Tigers.

Preston Rapczak made a strong move for a lay up and a foul to give Newton Falls the lead, 18-16. Newton Falls outscored LaBrae 18-11 in the quarter and took a 24-21 lead into halftime.

” I told the team at halftime we had to start moving more without the ball,” LaBrae coach Chad Kiser said. “We were standing around too much. We were without Aaron which hurt us. He’s day-to-day. There’s no structural damage, so we’ll see. (Benton) Tennant got in foul trouble so we were without two starters for most of the first half.”

Newton Falls continued its good play for the first part of the third quarter and built a five-point lead. Elijah Whiteside hit a 3 to cut the Tigers lead to 28-26. Stephens followed with another 3 for the Vikings to give them a 29-28 advantage.

“We had a rough first half. We kept pushing hard and got the victory,” Stephens said. “We thank God for everything.”

Freshman Conner Meyer hit a 3 to give LaBrae a 36-30 lead. The Vikings put the pressure on and started to pull away. They outscored Newton Falls 24-8 in the 3rd quarter to take a 45-32 lead.

Kiser and LaBrae played keep away with the ball in the fourth quarter. Long possessions of passing the ball around resulted in working it down low to Stephens, or Kiser penetrating the defense.

” Everybody needed to step up offensively because Aaron is a big threat,” Kiser said. “We were disappointed in our effort in the first half. They just outworked us. Simple as that. We knew we had to come out and play like we can in the 2nd half. We did, especially in the third quarter.”

Juniors Gage Friend and Rapczak led Newton Falls with 11 and 10 points, respectively.