Semifinal loss doesn’t define LaBrae’s season

COLUMBUS – When asked to start his postgame press conference with a statement, LaBrae coach Chad Kiser gave the answer that came to no surprise to anyone in the room.

“I wish we would have won.”

The Vikings had their chances during the Division III state semifinal, but a combination of stellar defense by Versailles combined with LaBrae shooting 6 of 26 in the second half was the downfall of the Vikings in a 64-52 loss.

“I thought we made a nice run,” Kiser said. “I don’t think these guys left anything unfinished. We just didn’t shoot well tonight in the second half.”

Kiser also stated another obvious point after the game – that there can only be one team to win a state championship. Unfortunately for LaBrae, it wasn’t meant to be them in 2013.

However, there are many things this team accomplished that should allow them to leave Columbus and travel back to Leavittsburg with their heads held high.

Because as senior John Richards said after Thursday’s game, this team made history.

After years of being stalled in the district tournament, mostly by the hands of Berkshire, the Vikings finally won the Division III, Howland district, with a double-overtime victory over Ursuline.

From there, the Vikings had one of the more dominant runs in the state during their regional. They defeated Oberlin, 75-52, then rolled past Beachwood, 59-30, which included a 17-0 first quarter.

With that win, the Vikings made school history as it was the first time LaBrae had advanced a basketball team to the state tournament.

In addition, the Vikings were only the 15th team in the history of the state tournament to make it from Trumbull County. The first team was Hubbard in 1924, the last before LaBrae was Warren G. Harding in 2009. Just making it to state put this Vikings’ team into elite company when talking about the best basketball teams in Trumbull County lore.

“There’s no other group I would have rather do this with,” Richards said. “We’ve been together since fourth grade. This is a bunch of good guys and we are best friends. This is who I want to go out with.”

For Richards and the rest of the class of 2013, they will go down as one of the best ever at LaBrae. The class of 2013 won 66 games together from their sophomore through senior years and won every conference title since they were in seventh grade.

Then there is junior Peyton Aldridge, who still has one more year to make himself the best basketball player to ever wear the red and gray.

This season, Aldridge scored his 1,000th career point against Windham and is on pace to break the career points record at LaBrae, which is currently held by his mother, Lisa.

In addition, he was named the Division III Northeast Inland Player of the Year for the second straight year and again was named first-team All-Ohio. He already has Division I schools lining up at his doorstep. If he has another year like he did this year, Aldridge’s name will be more than mentioned in 2014 for Mr. Basketball.

What will happen in 2013-14 for the Vikings? That’s yet to be determined. But what has been figured out is that this LaBrae team will go down as one of the best the county has ever seen.