Poland hands LaBrae first loss

LEAVITTSBURG – It’s possible that LaBrae Vikings coach Chad Kiser circled the Poland Bulldogs on his calendar before he penciled in his grudge matches every season with Newton Falls.

Poland Bulldogs coach Ken Grisdale probably circled the Vikings on his calendar before giving thought to rival Canfield.

It was a game that both Kiser and Grisdale desperately wanted to see play out as a gauge of where the area powers stand nearly midway through the season. The fact that both were undefeated gave it a tournament-like feel Tuesday on the Vikings’ home court.

Not surprisingly, an overtime period was needed to decide the outcome. The Bulldogs, who squandered a 15-point halftime lead, scored 13 of the first 14 points in overtime to win the non-conference game, 57-49.

“We haven’t played anybody this good in a long time,” Kiser said. “Everyone asked me if they (the Bulldogs) are as good as they were last year. I think they’re a better team. They don’t have any one individual as good as Colin Reardon was last year, but their chemistry and everyone doing their roles, they’re flawless.”

The win improved Poland’s record to 9-0. The Vikings are 8-1.

Grisdale was able to breathe easier after the Bulldogs totally controlled overtime. George Chammas opened the 4-minute session with a fielder for Poland. John Richards then made one of two free throws for the Vikings.

The Bulldogs followed with an 11-point run. Seven of the points came at the foul line (Poland was 10-of-14 at the line in overtime).

“If we have any expectations of being a good basketball team down the stretch, we have to be able to play in games like this, and I think coach Kiser would say the same thing,” Grisdale said. “Both teams won because we both got tested. We’ve been in games this season where we weren’t tested. Tonight we had to find out who we were.”

The clutch moment came when Jacob Wolfe made a 3-point shot for the Bulldogs to tie the score, 41-41, with 51 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Prior to Wolfe’s basket the Bulldogs had made just one field goal in the second half a third-quarter two-pointer by Alex Hubbell.

The Vikings, who turned the game around with aggressive, fullcourt pressure, had rallied from a 31-16 deficit at halftime and a 34-26 deficit through three quarters to take a 41-38 lead on a layup by Peyton Aldridge. Wolfe’s 3-pointer quieted the home crowd and set up overtime.

“They brought Wolfe off a double screen and we didn’t hedge it at all to help,” Kiser said. “He got a good look and drilled it. That was the shot of the game. We had all the momentum.”

Carl Brown drove to the basket quickly on LaBrae’s next possession, but he had the ball stripped from his grasp. Poland set up for the final shot, but Wolfe was off target on a drive to the basket. Nate Middleton’s halfcourt shot at the buzzer failed.

“When it was going the other way, our eyes were a little glossy and wondering if we’re okay,” Grisdale said. “I said, ‘If you don’t believe you can go out and get a stop and come down here and get a shot, let’s leave.’ They looked each other in the eye, and they believed they could do this.”

Aldridge finished with 19 points after scoring just three in the first half. He grabbed 11 rebounds. Richards had 13 points.

Wolfe had 17 points. Kevin White had 16, including nine on three 3-point shots as the Bulldogs opened an 18-7 lead after the first quarter. Chammas finished with 11 points and 11 rebounds.

“We stayed in the zone too long, and that’s my fault,” Kiser said of switching to man pressure in the second half. “They’re just too good of a team. They executed and shot the ball well in the first half.”

LaBrae host Champion Friday. Poland is home to face Canfield Friday.