Senior strong

LEAVITTSBURG – The superstition surrounding the number 13 goes that it is the most unlucky number in existence. Whether it’s Friday the 13th or Dan Marino never winning a championship despite a prolific career while wearing the number, people rarely see it in a positive light.

Well, somebody forgot to tell the LaBrae basketball class of 2013 about the negative effect of the number.

No matter the outcome this week in the Division III state final four, Viking seniors Chris Clevenger, Kenny Hall, Tyler Shiamone, Carl Brown, Nate Middleton, John Richards and Paul Zigmont will finish their careers as the most successful class in the history of LaBrae basketball.

The class of 2013 recorded the most wins (66) starting from its sophomore season and clinched the program’s first appearance at the state level following a 59-30 win over Beachwood in the Division III regional final at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse.

“They’re just winners,” LaBrae coach Chad Kiser said. “You have some kids that are just winners. You know a winner when you see them.

“They do what it takes to win, and they do it the right way. They work hard and don’t take shorts cuts – put the time in the gym in the offseason.”

The hard work has paid dividends from the start for this group of seven seniors.

Since coming into junior high, the Class of 2013 has won a conference title every year. Even in high school with the players separated between the junior varsity and varsity levels, they managed to bring home trophies – for both teams.

“Ever since at least fourth grade, we’ve always been winning tournaments,” said Middleton, a forward. “We’ve all kept our heads clear, and we all stayed in basketball. It just turned out good.”

Playing with mostly the same group since fourth grade, the group of seniors have built good chemistry with each other.

The players all know where the others will be on the court and do a good job of spreading the ball around to each other. Multiple players said they are all very good friends, and some said their connection went further than that.

“We’re ready for every game we play,” Richards said. “We’re all a big family. We trust each other a lot. I’m just happy to be (going to state) with these guys.”

Each player brings something to the table in terms of personality.

Out of the seniors, they consider Zigmont as the smartest in the group, although if Peyton Aldridge was a senior, it would be a tough decision between the two big men.

Whenever the guys need some comic relief, they turn to Hall. The 6-foot-3 forward manages to make the guys laugh, especially whenever he does his “squirrel noises,” a few players said.

“He’s the funniest guy,” Brown said of Hall. “Sometimes, he just don’t do nothing to be funny – just be himself.”

As to the basketball, Brown said the group was aware of its potential to make the state final four, and the team is thrilled to have reached that goal.

“Since we were little, we always thought that we could make it to state when in high school,” Brown said. “It feels good to be here.”

CLEVENGER SUFFERS INJURY, SHOULD PLAY THURSDAY:?With the biggest game in LaBrae basketball history on Thursday, Chris Clevenger picked a bad time to give his teammates and Vikings fans a scare.

The senior guard suffered a spained ankle in a non-basketball situation Monday that will sideline him from practice in the days leading up to the game.

“It happened in the morning,” Clevenger said. “I twisted it outside on the ice. So, I’m going to be sitting out, letting it heal, stretching it out and getting ready for the big game Thursday.”

Like his player, LaBrae coach Chad Kiser is optimistic that his point guard will be ready for the game against Versailles.

“He’s just got to take it easy the next day or two, and he’ll be ready to go,” LaBrae coach Chad Kiser said. “The swelling’s already starting to go down. It’s not a bad sprain – he’s walking on it fine. We’re just not going to push it until we have to.”