COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WKBN) – Some times it’s better to be lucky than be good. At least that is how the Lisbon Blue Devils felt following a last second 54-52 win at Columbiana Tuesday night. With the victory they are now 11-1 overall on the season, 3-0 in the ITCL White Tier. Columbiana falls to a very misleading 5-9 record, 1-2 in the league.
“It’s a W, it’s ugly, but I always tell the kids there are two things in life. There are W’s and L’s and that was a W so we’ll take it and get on our bus and go home and enjoy it, and get back to work tomorrow,” Devils coach Chris Huckshold remarked. “You have got to win ugly games, it’s a long season, 22 games, your not going to get up for every single game.”
“I totally agree with him that it was an ugly win. Like he said at the end of the day it’s W’s and L’s and we’ll take the W. Night in and night out we have to get the job done. Tonight it was very sloppy but we got it done,” Devils senior forward Josh Craig added.
With the game tied at 52-52, Craig threw up a off balance shot that rolled into the cylinder with just 4.5 second remaining in the contest. The Clippers would respond with Cooper Smith stopping high at the top the key to fire up a shot as time expired. That potential game-winner hit the right-side of the rim and bounced out, preserving the Devils victory.
“I honestly don’t know how it went in,” Craig responded to his game-winner. “I trusted my left hand to put it up there and I just saw it roll around to the back of the rim and fall in. It felt awesome. I was able to take a breath there at the end.”
“A senior guard with the ball who’s played 86, 87 games, I’m going to trust the decision that he is going to make,” Huckshold said of Josh Liberati on the last scoring play. “We were in position to call a time out if he got trapped or anything. He’s a veteran, he pushed the ball down (court). That’s been Josh Craig for four years. He does all the dirty work, all the rebounds, all the charges. A big bucket at the end.”
“We were expecting some token pressure, we had our set and we wanted a diagonal cut. So we knew we were looking to try to drive,” Clippers coach Wes Cross said of Smith’s shot at the buzzer. “I would have been happy with overtime, but I’m ok with that shot. He had the courage to shoot it. That was the best shot we could get.”
Out side of the first quarter when the Devils led by 8-points at 16-8, the lead changed hands numerous times throughout the contest. The Devils led 16-11 at the end of first quarter, but when the Clippers Gannon Hartley put back a rebound for a basket at the 1:41 mark of the second stanza the Clippers took their first lead of the game at 23-11. Two foul shots by Austin Rutecki at the end of the quarter gave the Devils a narrow 26-25 lead at intermission.
“We had a good run in the second quarter and I thought we could have gone on with it and then we had a couple fouls. They hit a couple shots and we had a couple defensive breakdowns and it got back to them being able to one possession us,” Huckshold remarked.
The Devils would never lead by more than three points in the third quarter and when the Clippers Matt Rancone hit a shot with just 2-seconds remaining the two teams were knotted at 38-38 at the end of the period. The lead would change hands five times in the final frame with the Clippers tying the game up at 52-52 when Smith popped in a basket with only 18-seconds remaining. That set up Craig’s dramatic off-balanced winning shot.
The loss overshadowed a tremendous performance by the Clippers Gannon Hartley who scored a game-high 18 points while Burdette Baker added 13 points and 8 rebounds.
“We have good size, and really the only team in the league that has similar size is Lisbon,” Cross said. “So I’m trying to take advantage of our front court which has good size and play off of that. A couple more rebounds and we come out of here with a win.”
The Devils were led on the scoreboard by Craig with 14 points while Austin Rutecki added 12 and Josh Liberati chipped in with 10.
The Blue Devils next contest will be Friday night when they host Southern. The Clippers travel to their biggest rival Leetonia the same night.
The Blue Devils j-v squad also won in the opening game of the night 53.33. Bergan Weyand scored a game-high 13 points.