LaBrae overcomes Champion; sews up Blue Tier title

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems Champion coach Nathan Kish, right, instructs his players as the Flashes’ Chase Wheelock (2) guards Benton Tennant of LaBrae Tuesday night. The Vikings beat Champion, 60-55, to clinch the All-American Conference Blue Tier.

LEAVITTSBURG — In a game that saw some big runs, LaBrae rallied from a halftime deficit to clinch the All-American Conference Blue Tier crown with a 60-55 win over Champion Tuesday night on the Vikings’ floor.

Early on, Champion (10-8, 8-3) had everything going right. The Golden Flashes quickly got out to a 4-0 lead with six minutes left in the first quarter and then led 10-2 with 3:50 left in the quarter.

LaBrae (16-0, 10-0) responded with a 4-0 run but Champion led 17-6 after the first quarter. Chase Wheelock had seven of his 16 points in the first.

LaBrae struggled in the second quarter but played a little better defense. The Vikings have been a tad stale on offense without injured guard Aaron Iler in the lineup.

Champion led, 23-19, at halftime behind Drake Batcho’s nine points. He also finished with 16 points for the Golden Flashes.

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems Champion’s Joe Abramovich, right, defends against LaBrae’s Broghan Hyland Tuesday.

“We were impatient and we took some bad shots right off the bat,” LaBrae coach Chad Kiser said about the first half. “We had guys a little out of position with Aaron (Iler) out. Guys are still trying to adjust without him out there.”

In the second half, LaBrae found its way on offense much more than the first half. The Vikings took their first lead of the game on a Tyler Stephens 3-pointer for a 35-33 lead. Champion responded with a Wheelock 3-ball the next possession.

LaBrae led, 40-39, after three quarters.

“The biggest thing was that we matched their intensity. We worked hard the entire game and it was four quarters of working hard. That allowed us to stay in the game,” Champion coach Nathan Kish said. “They had about six turnovers to our 22 or something like that. Twenty-two to six and we were able to hang in there because of effort.”

LaBrae was able to expand on its slim lead as it got out to a 51-41 advantage with 3:57 left in the game. That forced a Champion timeout.

Tribune Chronicle / Marc Weems Logan Kiser (10) of LaBrae gets inside Champion defender Jared Day Tuesday night.

Whatever was said in that timeout worked as the Flashes got the lead down to 53-50 with just over two minutes left in the game. That in turn forced a LaBrae timeout.

“We knew that we weren’t playing our best game, you could tell. I think that we got a little nervous since we have a lot of guys that didn’t play varsity last year,” LaBrae’s Logan Kiser said. “As a leader, I try to calm everyone down and get them to relax. We haven’t had too many close games and it’s nice to have a game like this to get us used to playing in that environment.”