Zone defense keys Vikings’ victory

CANTON – Everyone knows that person who will keep a secret under any circumstance. You can pry all you want, but he’s not giving it up.

Imagine a child prodding his friend to divulge what he’s getting for his birthday.

“What is it? Please tell me. Is it a bike? I really want a bike.”

Chad Kiser would be the other kid, smiling and not answering.

Then he’d blurt out: “I will help you take the training wheels off when you’re ready.”

Saturday night the LaBrae coach was tight-lipped about the type of zone his team played, almost to perfection, in a Division III regional final.

Reporter: That looked like a 3-2 zone. Do you have a name for it?

Kiser: I don’t want to give away my secrets. It’s just a zone.

Reporter: How big was it stopping Beachwood’s penetration?

Kiser: It was huge. All three guys up top (were responsible) for that.

Reporter: Three guys up top? Then it was a 3-2 zone.

At that point Kiser smiled and remained silent.

His team’s defense did all the talking. And it spoke loudly at the Canton Memorial Fieldhouse. The Vikings made it clear from the beginning that this battle of teams that entered with identical 23-3 records would be as lopsided as any regional final in memory. The 59-30 final was much, much, closer than the actual game.

LaBrae led 17-0 after a quarter. LaBrae led 27-4 at the half.

The Bison finally reached double digits with 47 seconds remaining in the third quarter. By quarter’s end it was 45-10. Early in the fourth quarter, Beachwood was 2 of 42 from the field. The Bison finished 7 of 50 and missed all 24 3-point attempts.

All this LaBrae did against the state’s eighth-ranked team. All this was due primarily to the Vikings’ defense.

“We actually played a lot of zone during the regular season,” Kiser said. “In the playoffs we’ve played mostly man. We knew they hadn’t seen us play a lot of zone. We actually started playing zone against Girard when (Craig) Randall was killing us.”

Randall, one of the quickest players in the area, is very good at beating his man off the dribble and driving into the paint. Beachwood’s John Davis III is every bit as good at doing that but never got a chance to.

“(The zone) was just for him,” Kiser said of Davis. “We did it solely to stop him.”

It probably worked better than even Kiser could have imagined. If Davis got by one of the guards on the outside of the zone, he’d run into either Carl Brown or Marcell Richardson.

“It was key,” said Brown, who led all players with 15 points, of stopping Davis’ penetration. “He’s very fast, very quick off the dribble.”

Added Richardson: “It was very important. We wouldn’t let him attack the basket. We needed to stop him from penetrating and stop (Jordan Richardson) from getting offensive rebounds.”

Mission accomplished. Both of Davis’ field goals came in the fourth quarter and he had just one assist in the game. Jordan Richardson had just two offensive boards in the game, primarily because 6-foot-7 junior Peyton Aldridge (14 points, 17 rebounds, seven blocked shots) boxed him out consistently.

“They came out in a zone and with Peyton in the middle we really couldn’t get anyone to the rim,” said Beachwood coach Jason Pecjak. “We didn’t make a shot from the perimeter and that was a bad combination.”

With LaBrae committed to stopping penetration, the Bison settled for 3-pointers throughout the contest. With those not falling there was little hope.

“Our main focus was to stop penetration and rebound,” Kiser said.

The Vikings held a commanding 46-31 edge on the boards.

LaBrae, making the first trip to the state tournament in school history, will face Versailles (22-5) in a semifinal Thursday. Tipoff at the Jerome Schottenstein center in Columbus is set for 2 p.m.