Brookfield wins fifth straight in showdown with LaBrae

BROOKFIELD – All it took to get the Brookfield Warriors untracked was one 3-point shot by Jeremy Quinlan, but he didn’t see a need to stop there.

Quinlan followed his 3-pointer with three more from beyond the arc on each of his next three shots, turning an 11-point deficit to the LaBrae Vikings after one quarter into a one-point disadvantage.

The Warriors would go on to open a two-point halftime lead, and they never trailed in the second half in registering a 66-61 win Tuesday.

Quinlan’s 3-point barrage came after a shaky first period by the Warriors (9-1). Their outside shooting against the Vikings’ zone defense was consistently off the mark, allowing LaBrae to take a 19-8 lead.

That all changed with one swish of the net from long range by Quinlan, who had 23 points and 13 rebounds.

“It felt good,” Quinlan said of his first 3-pointer. “If I keep missing, I keep shooting. If it goes in, then I can get on my roll that I had.”

As important as Quinlan’s offensive contributions were, Warriors coach Bill Kovach was most pleased with his defensive work on Vikings 6-foot-7 standout junior Peyton Aldridge. Aldridge had 16 points, but he had trouble scoring from the inside. Late in the game he missed several shots from close to point-blank range.

“I thought Jeremy Quinlan really did a good job on Peyton Aldridge in that first half,” Kovach said. “Everything he shot he had a hand in his face. No easy paths to the basket. We got into foul trouble. Jeremy played five minutes with four fouls, and we weathered the storm.”

The Vikings (8-2) played an efficient first quarter. Aldridge had four points, two assists and two blocked shots in the period.

LaBrae didn’t do much to please coach Chad Kiser in the next two periods, scoring six points in the second and 12 in the third.

“We didn’t close out (on defense),” Kiser said. “They had a couple (3s) when they had good ball movement and they set up some screens for the back side. We turned around and went man-to-man and gave up two open 3s again. We just sagged off. You have to close out on Quinlan. That’s just bad defense. We lost our focus.”

The Vikings made a few charges in the fourth quarter, reducing a 44-37 deficit after three periods to 46-44. LaBrae trailed 57-54 later in the quarter when Collin Harkulich and Jimmy Quinlan both made two free throws for the Warriors. Derrick Dickson then made one of two foul shots to extend Brookfield’s lead to 62-54.

Two foul shots by Aldridge and a layup by Chris Clevenger following a steal cut the Vikings’ deficit to 62-58. Kenny Hall then scored his only points of the game on a 3-point shot as LaBrae inched to within one, 62-61.

After Dickson made two free throws, LaBrae’s John Richards missed two foul shots. Jimmy Quinlan iced the win with two free throws.

It was a big win for the Warriors, who hadn’t played a team of the Vikings’ quality this season.

“They’re ranked in the state poll,” Jeremy said. “We haven’t beaten them since we were in eighth grade. It’s a great feeling to beat them.”

Harkulich finished with 17 points.

It was the only meeting between the teams in the regular season, but it wouldn’t be surprising if they squared off in the Division III district.

“It’s very possible,” Kiser said. “I definitely think they’re one of the better teams in our district. We have a long way to go and we need to get a lot better unless we meet them early because we’re not playing like a team that’s going to make it to a championship game right now.”

LaBrae hosts Girard, while Brookfield is home to face Conneaut Friday.