Game time for Vikings
In 2005, LaBrae boys basketball coach Chad Kiser found himself in a similar situation as this year, albeit in a different sport.
Then the LaBrae softball coach, his Vikings team made a run into the state semifinals before losing to the eventual state champions that year.
Kiser plans on using what he learned from that experience going into the 2013 Division III boys basketball state semifinal matchup against Versailles at 2 p.m., today in the Jerome Schottenstein Center. He’s hoping to keep the boys basketball team from feeling overly anxious in Columbus.
“For the girls, it was the first time in that kind of situation,” Kiser said. “There were a little bit of nerves. We did uncharacteristic things than what we had done all year.
“This year, coming into state, we’re just trying to keep the boys so they’re not nervous. So far, they’ve been able to do that.”
If LaBrae (24-3) wants any chance of moving on to the state final on Saturday, the team will need to calm its nerves and focus on its opponent, Versailles (22-5).
Just northwest of Dayton, the Tigers play in one of the toughest conferences in the state – the Midwest Athletic Conference. The MAC includes schools like Delphos St. John’s, Coldwater, Minster, Marion Local and St. Henry.
As for the team itself, senior Chad Winner and sophomore Kyle Ahrens lead the Tigers. Both earning two-time first team, All-MAC selections, Ahrens averages 19.1 points per game, while Winner adds 14.4 points per game.
“They play in a very good basketball league,” Kiser said. “(Versailles) is tough, well coached, battled tested and they’ve been there nine years ago. They’ve got two really good players, and at this point, every team has to be playing well to get to state. So, I imagine their role players are playing really well like ours are.”
Scoring about 62 points per game, it’s the efficiency that makes the offense so formidable. The Tigers shoot 46.9 percent from the field as a team, including a 52.5-percent mark from their sophomore stud Ahrens.
Although being one of the tallest players on the team, the 6-foot-5 Ahrens plays guard for Versailles. He uses his size to his advantage, as he grabs a team-leading 6.2 rebounds per game.
Having played against Ahrens a few times on the AAU circuit, Peyton Aldridge knows a little about the Tigers’ main man.
“We really have to contest all their shots,” Aldridge said. “They’ve got some shooters on their team. Ahrens is a really athletic kid, so we just can’t let him get to the glass.”
Still, LaBrae’s defense has played a huge role in their own run, allowing 40 points per game over five tournament games. The Vikings understand that they will need to keep up the defensive intensity in order to have a chance to win.
“We just need to play good defense,” senior Carl Brown said. “I think our offense will come. We got a good coach, so he’ll get us prepared to come out and get the victory.”
A victory is exactly what the Vikings want, especially the group of seven seniors. They desire ending their careers as state champions.
“It has sunk in – that it’s my last week,” Brown said. “It’s been a good road, and I just want to end it off good by winning state.”