Devils burned by Southern

LISBON – The Southern Local boys basketball team took Lisbon to the zone in a massive way.

The Indians relied on defense and zone offense as it dominated the second half and stunned the Blue Devils 49-44 on Friday.

“We knew that they were at their home court and they were tough to beat,” said Troy Holden, who led the Indians with 14 points. “It just came down to who won mentally.”

The Indians improve to 8-6 overall and 6-3 in the upper tier, and are now two games behind league-leading Springfield. Lisbon (12-2, 7-2) falls into second place and is one game behind the Tigers.

The Indians haven’t been high-scoring all season, so they took a different approach against the Blue Devils as noted by Southern coach George Whittaker.

“We pretty much played all man this year, so we thought we would switch it up,” Whittaker said. “We didn’t know if they (Lisbon) would be ready for zone, and it looked like they struggled against it.”

The zone worked, and with it came strong defense of M.J. Williams, who scored seven, and then saw the free-throw magic of Holden, who went 12-for-13 at the line after forcing the Blue Devils into fouls in the zone.

“Holden hit all of his foul shots down the stretch under pressure,” Whittaker said. “Williams was great on the boards. It’s one of those things. They (Lisbon) are a young team, and the zone seemed to make them struggle, and it’s great for our program to come out with this win.”

Even with the Indians’ strong second-half offense, which included Justin Shilot’s 12 points and Aron Sevek’s 10, they saw the Blue Devils attempting to close up the lead. Holden was there to keep the team calm.

“I was trying to keep the guys calm because towards the end, we were up,” Holden said. “We knew they were excited as they were coming back, so we just needed to keep composed.”

Just like the Indians, the Blue Devils were also strongest in the second half, namely in the fourth quarter, due in large part to scoring from Josh Liberati, who led with 12 points and five assists, and Austin Rutecki, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds.

Lisbon coach Chris Huckshold also felt the Devils played the strongest in the fourth quarter.

“We were scoring more points in the fourth quarter than we had in the first three quarters of the game,” Huckshold said. “We attacked the zone, we had played in anticipation. We had to go after them and get it, so we attacked and went after them.”

The same zone offense of the Indians gave the Blue Devils the toughest time before the fourth quarter.

“We couldn’t penetrate the zone,” Huckshold said. “Defensively we were flat, we were backdoor-cut. We gave up a lot of easy looks and didn’t get to the spots we needed to be to play defense.”

Just as much as the Blue Devils had trouble with the Indians’ zone offense, they had an even tougher time at the foul line, going just 18-for-30.

“We were just looking at the stats and shot 30 free throws and made only 18,” Huckshold said. “You’re not going to win a lot of games when you shoot that many free throws and not make them.”

Huckshold isn’t willing to let the team get itself down with eight more games remaining in the regular season.

“It’s not the end of the world,” Huckshold said. “We’re still controlling our destiny. The last time that we won the league, we lost two games to other teams, then we beat Sebring twice, and took the (old Tri-County League).”

The Blue Devils controlled the Indians in the junior varsity game 64-27. Jared White led the Blue Devils with 16 points, while Domanick Michael scored eight for the Indians.

Both teams are home on Tuesday as Southern hosts South Range and Lisbon hosts Columbiana.

Game notes

The loss for the Blue Devils ended a six-game winning streak.

The 50/50 raffle prize was $176.

A Spirit Shirt sale is currently taking place, sponsored by the Lisbon athletic department and high school Pep Club, for the Blue Devils’ home game against Springfield Feb. 7. The blue camo colored shirts will follow the theme “Hunt the Tigers”. Shirts are $12 for sizes small through extra large, and $14 for XXL and above. Order forms are available at the junior high and high school offices.

SOUTHERN: 9-4-11-25-49

LISBON: 8-6-7-23-44

SOUTHERN SCORING: M.J. Williams 3-1-7, Jared Shilot 4-3-12, Christian Adkins 1-0-2, Andrew Russell 2-0-4, Aron Sevek 4-1-10, Troy Holden 1-12-14. TEAM TOTALS:15, 17-25: 49.

LISBON SCORING: Matt Spencer 1-0-2, Josh Liberati 3-5-12, Austin Rutecki 3-5-11, Avery Andric 3-1-8, Josh Craig 1-7-9, Trevor Reese 1-0-2. TEAM TOTALS: 12-42, 18-30: 44.

Three-point goals: Southern 2 (Shilot, Sevek), Lisbon 2 (Liberati, Andric).