LaBrae overcomes Bristol in opener for both teams

Special to the Tribune Chronicle / Dianna Oatridge LaBrae's Benton Tennant (20) drives to the hoop between Bristol defenders Matt Church (14), Mike Wiebe (13), and Damion Durst (3) during their game on Tuesday.

LEAVITTSBURG — Despite major pushback throughout the game from Bristol, the Vikings of LaBrae came out on top Tuesday night with a 70-58 victory, giving them a 1-0 start.

“I thought we got outworked for three-fourths of the game,” Vikings coach Chad Kiser said. “We really struggled with execution, but I thought once we got into the half-court in the second half and guarded half the court instead of the full court, we were able to get stops.

“When we got stops, we were able to get them out of the defense they wanted to run and get a little more execution.”

Tyler Stephens came out hot, scoring 18 points to lead the Vikings. Stephens had a strong net presence, pulling down rebound after rebound including six in the fourth quarter.

“We didn’t play real smart tonight,” Kiser said. “First game of the year for us, we only had one scrimmage in. We got a late start on it, I think we’re still working the kinks out and getting back to playing at game speed. I think that really showed early tonight. We’d score a bucket and give one right back.

Special to the Tribune Chronicle / Dianna Oatridge Bristol's Mike Wiebe (13) shoots over LaBrae's Justin Rutherford (14) during their game on Tuesday.

“There were no stops in that first half. I thought the second half we got a little better defense. Started rebounding better and started to move the ball better and work as a team.”

The Panthers led the majority of the game, losing their lead on the last shot of the third quarter, a long 3-pointer by Benton Tennant. Bristol led by seven at the end of the first half, with the help of a 21-point second quarter.

“I thought we played hard enough to win,” Panthers coach Craig Giesy said. “This one is on me. We had some fundamental things, some travels that we just can’t have at this point.

“I know it’s going to be sloppy at times early in the year, but I have to get them a little more prepared for this game. I thought they gave 100 percent and I’m confident this group is going to give that consistently.”

For Bristol, the offense ran through Gage Elza, who scored 21, leading both teams in points. Mike Wiebe added 12 points and Matt Stephens scored nine. Giesy is happy with what he saw with his role players tonight.

Special to the Tribune Chronicle / Dianna Oatridge LaBrae's Tyler Stephens (21) and Bristol's Nick Church (20) battle for a rebound during their game on Tuesday.

“Gage and Matt (Church) had big-time minutes tonight,” Giesy said. “They’re a big core of our team, but we had guys the whole first half. I was really proud of our role players, not even the bench, just the role players in general. They did a great job of filling in and playing hard.”

Bristol heads to Newbury next to take on the Black Knights to open their conference schedule.

“It’s our first league game,” Gisey said. “We have to have a short memory. We have to go to their place and they’re a good team, well-coached, we have to get better over the next two days, so we can get them.”

LaBrae heads to Howland to take on the Tigers.

“I think the first half of tonight’s game showed us that we’re not working hard enough in practice,” Kiser said. “I feel good that we hopefully learned those things, I’ll feel better come Friday if I see we still aren’t making those mistakes, but 1-0 is a lot better than 0-1. It’s better to get that win and see where you need to improve.

“I think our guys will come to practice the rest of this week and get ready for a tough road one. Howland will be a tough one for us.”

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