Salem – It had been over a decade since the Lisbon Blue Devils had reached the District Finals in boys basketball, but unfortunately they ran into a very talented Canton Central Catholic Crusaders team that had just knocked off top seeded Campbell Monday night. The Crusaders came out of the gates firing on all cylinders to dominate the Devils in a 60-43 victory.
The Crusaders overwhelmed the Devils right after tip-off going on a 16-2 run to start the game. They would hold a 20-7 advantage at the close of the first quarter, and would increase the margin to 22-points at 29-7 midway through the second stanza. They held a commanding 37-17 halftime lead.
“We got in to big of a hurry,” Devils head coach Chris Huckhold remarked. “Once we got the ball across half court we forced some shots, and you know they (CCC) were aggressive and they were running at us. It would have been a great time to ball fake, pump fake, go hard to the hole, create some things to happen, but the kids have been doing it for twenty-five games on the break, catch and shoot, and their use to being open.”
“They are a really tough team, they really are,” Devils senior Matt Spencer remarked. “Very athletic, very quick, we really haven’t seen anything like that this year. They are a heck of a team, shooting, they have it all.”
Spencer, the lone senior player on the Blue Devils team this year fouled out of the contest in the fourth quarter with 4 points on the night. But as Huckshold pointed out, his leadership this year was immeasurable.
“Matt just kept cheering and cheering, it was a rough ending for him and his career, but he’s such a great leader and he has done a phenomenal job mentoring these young kids. He showed his emotion and he kept those kids playing hard. They played hard to the horn.”
Josh Liberati led the Devils in scoring on the night with 14 points, while Austin Rutecki and Avery Andric each chipped in 9 point a piece. Rutecki also contributed 6 rebounds on the night for the Devils.
The Crusaders went up by a game-high 24-points at 42-18 with just under six minutes left in the third quarter before the Devils started to chip away a little at the deficit. They would cut it to 16-points with 7:02 remaining in the game following a bucket by Josh Craig and a free throw by Liberati. The Devils would outscore the Crusaders 26-23 in the second half.
“If anything this should open their eyes that their is a lot more work to be done,” Huckshold said of the future his young Blue Devil team. “Sometimes kids get the opportunity to play young and they let up in their development. I don’t think that this group will do that. They push each other hard. They make each other better. We will see how much we develop in the next nine months and go to battle again next year.”
“The only people that can beat them from here on out are themselves, and I think tonight they realize that” Spencer said of the returning team mates. “They got such bright futures, every single one of them.”
The Devils close the season with a 21-5 record. They also broke school records during the 2013-14 season for assist by Liberati, Andric broke the most three points in a season record, plus they set team records for wins, and most points in a season.