LISBON-Despite their winless start, the South Range Raiders had been competitive in several early season games and knew they were on the verge of playing good basketball. In the fourth quarter Friday night at Lisbon, they finally broke the ice.
The Raiders rode the hot shooting of guard Nick Wiery and stormed past the previously undefeated Blue Devils 58-49.
The Raiders improve to 1-5 overall and 1-4 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier. It was the first win at the school for new head coach John Cullen. Lisbon drops to 6-1 and 4-1 ITCL.
"There is a lot of excitement with these guys right now," South Range forward Garrett Anderson said. "We came in thinking we could knock these guys off and we went out there and battled for it."
Wiery led the way with 19 points with 15 of those coming in the fourth quarter.
Lisbon opened the frame leading 34-30, but the Raiders unleashed their best offensive burst of the season to seize the lead. Wiery nailed three three-pointers to key the surge. One of those threes gave the Raiders the lead for good with five minutes left after a pinpoint pass from a double-teamed Anderson. His last three gave the Raiders a 47-38 lead with three minutes left and capped a 17-4 South Range run.
"He's had some nice games this year and he was on the verge of breaking out," Cullen said. "Tonight he put it all together."
"We doubled the post a few times when we shouldn't have and it left him (Wiery) open," Lisbon coach Chris Huckshold said. "We are big enough we didn't need to double and the way he was shooting you couldn't give him any space. We lost him a few times."
Anderson also played a huge role inside. The junior fought and scraped for every point and rebound against the taller post players of Lisbon and emerged with seven points and nine rebounds, including some key boards in the fourth quarter.
"He was a warrior tonight," Cullen said. "He was our backbone out there. They were throwing a lot of double-teams his way and he fought through it. He's one of those kids who just knows how to play."
"We are a little undersized compared to them," Anderson said. "Coach told us that all have players had to crash the boards and help with rebounding. Everyone hustled and did their part."
Point guard Mark Vennetti had a big second quarter to keep the Raiders within a few points and finished with 12 points and six rebounds. The 5-foot-6, 120-pound freshman held his own against 5-11 Lisbon point guard Josh Liberati. Vennetti began preseason thinking he would play on the freshman team, but was moved up to the varsity in late November and hasn't looked back.
"He got us out of the gate really well," Cullen said. "For being as small as he is he took care of the ball really well which was a big key for us."
The Blue Devils got off to a rough start when senior forward Matt Spencer, their primary post player, collected two fouls in the first two South Range possessions and spent the rest of the first half on the bench. Austin Rutecki led the Devils with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Liberati had 10 points and six assists.
"We can't use Matt being out as an excuse," Huckshold said. "The bottom line tonight was that we got outworked. We weren't focused and prepared and that's my fault. We missed a lot of close range shots and missed a lot at the foul line. Give Coach Cullen credit he had his team ready to play tonight."
The Blue Devils made a late run at South Range, closing the gap to five with one minute left, but sophomore forward Greg Dunham sealed it when he ripped an offensive rebound away from two Lisbon players, put the ball back in the hoop and was fouled in the process, causing the South Range bench to erupt.
"We've played well for periods of time throughout the year and it was just a matter of staying disciplined and focused for four quarters. Every time they made a run at us we stayed focused and got ourselves back under control it was just enough to hold them off."
The Blue Devils, though disappointed in their performance, know they are still well positioned in the league race, one game behind Springfield.
"It's one game and we'll learn and move on," Huckshold said. "It's a 22-game season. We still have a lot in front of us."
Lisbon won the jayvee game 41-36. Colin Sweeney had 11 points for the Blue Devils. Mitch Dolak had 10 for the raiders. Jason Thompson scored the go-ahead bucket with 40 seconds left.
Four of South Range's five losses have come by nine points or less.
S. RANGE: 10-10-10-28-58
SOUTH RANGE SCORING: Mark Vennetti 4-2-12, Andrew Cullar 1-0-3, Greg Dunham 3-4-11, Robbie Matos 0-2-2, Garrett Anderson 3-1-7, Cole Berry 0-0-0, Jonah Wilson 2-0-4, Nick Wiery 6-4-19, Turner Curry 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 19, 12-25: 58.
LISBON SCORING: Matt Spencer 3-2-8, Josh Liberati 3-4-10, Austin Rutecki 4-2-10, Avery Andric 5-3-15, Josh Craig 0-6-6, Austin Davis 0-0-0, Trevor Reese 0-0-0. TEAM TOTALS: 15, 17-25: 49.
Three-point goals: South Range 7 (Wiery 3, Vennetti 2, Cullar, Dunham), Lisbon 2 (Andric 2).