Vikings show improvement, beat Howland

LEAVITTSBURG — It was all about seeing signs of improvement in the second game of the season for the LaBrae Vikings and the Howland Tigers.

It was mission accomplished for Vikings coach Chad Kiser. For Tigers coach Dan Bubon, the mission will continue another time.

The inexperienced Vikings made noticeable strides on both ends of the court in pulling away to a 67-41 home win in a non-conference basketball game Friday. While Kiser would like to see better shooting in close range, he couldn’t complain about the 10 successful 3-point shots made or the 27 turnovers the Vikings forced.

“I thought we shot the ball much better, which helped us,” Kiser said. “Then our defense was outstanding all night. We were able to mix up our defenses and play four quarters.”

The Vikings evened their record at 1-1 following a 13-point loss to Niles McKinley to open the season. The Tigers, who opened with an eight-point loss to Youngstown East, are 0-2.

Bubon wasn’t able to find many positives. The turnovers were noticeable, including many from experienced backcourt players.

“No one will believe it who was here, but we do practice,” Bubon said. “I like this group, but it’s going to take a while to figure it out. We have a lot of pieces, and have to find out how to match them. Everyone that was available, we played. We have to find a rotation, and we haven’t found a rotation yet. Tonight no one played well.”

Kiser also played his entire bench, but he did so with the luxury of a commanding lead. Seven players scored for the Vikings, led by a 14-point effort by Tre’Von Drake.

LaBrae, which shot 9-of-34 from inside the key against Niles, missed several easy shots again, but there was enough success to give Kiser plenty of reasons for optimism.

“The game is so much mental,” Kiser said. “We have athletes, but now the pace in the extra things you have to be able to do — they’re learning. There was great improvement from game one to game two. These kids are tough, and I think they’ll continue to improve all year long.”

There was no big run by the Vikings, who trailed only once in the early going. They opened a 17-10 lead after one quarter, led by a pair of 3-pointers by Drake and one each by Devin Carter and Landen Kiser.

LaBrae took a 38-24 lead into the locker room at halftime. Much of its offensive success was fueled by 13 Howland turnovers.

The Vikings increased their lead to 21 points (52-31) after three quarters. The turnovers continued to pile up for the Tigers before Bubon emptied his bench midway through the fourth quarter.

Bubon is fighting the battle many coaches face at this stage of the season, which is working with athletes that have played other sports.

“It seems like kids do either everything or nothing nowadays,” Bubon said. “None of that is bad. Times are different. When I grew up we left basketball practice and went and played basketball somewhere else. We’ll figure it out.”

Connor Meyer had 11 points for LaBrae. Landen Kiser and Justin Rutherford both added 10 points.

Cam Durig scored 13 points for the Tigers. Gabe Budea pulled down 12 rebounds.


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