Rebounding key for LaBrae in win over Niles

LEAVITTSBURG – Peyton Aldridge’s 6-foot-8 wingspan was imposing, making any of the Niles players think twice about driving into the lane.

The LaBrae senior and the rest of the Vikings defense kept them on the perimeter during Tuesday’s 68-37 victory over the Red Dragons at LaBrae High School.

“We knew they were a good 3-point shooting team,” Aldridge said. “We wanted to get out on them and contest their 3s. Limit them to one shot, which we did a good job of that tonight. We knew they were going to be long rebounds. We had to make sure we got into them and closed out.

“We did a great job with the offensive boards. They ran a box-and-one in the first half. Guys were crashing from all over and they had trouble boxing us out, so we were getting some second-chance points right there.”

LaBrae outrebounded Niles, 45-16.

“Tonight magnified it that we were a little out of it rebounding the basketball,” Niles coach Ron Price said.

Aldridge magnified the discrepancy with an all-encompassing play of his own.

Late in the first quarter, he blocked a Niles shot that started a fast break. Aldridge grabbed his own rebound and went down the court. The end result was a reverse two-handed slam that gave the Vikings (9-2) a 19-9 lead at the time.

“I got the steal, ran the floor,” Aldridge said. “Blake (Sprague) got fouled on the shot. I saw it come off, turned a little bit and put it through.”

Aldridge had 17 points and 22 rebounds, along with seven assists, three blocks and three steals. Marcell Richardson led LaBrae with 20 points and nine rebounds. Justin Jenkins had 12 points and six assists.

“Those are long rebounds he’s chasing down. He just has a knack for the ball. His basketball IQ is amazing,” LaBrae coach Chad Kiser said of Aldridge.

Niles (5-5) made a rally in the second quarter, cutting the lead to 32-23 at halftime. Muhammed Salaam had three 3s in the fourth quarter to lead the Red Dragons with nine points.

However, LaBrae ended any thoughts of a comeback with a 22-2 third-quarter surge – scoring the first 17 points.

LaBrae made Tuesday’s game look easy because they took the pressure off of the double team applied to Aldridge.

“He did a great job of taking a double team, using him as a screener,” said Kiser, whose team travels to Newton Falls on Friday. “Marcell stepped up big. The other guys spacing and movement is a lot better. We have an advantage if teams double him. Our guys are finding their roles now, where to go off the double team. Read the double team. Make teams pay as soon as they start to double him. I thought we did a great job of that against the box-and-one.”