CANFIELD, Ohio (WYTV) – In what was a battle for second place in the ITCL ‘s Upper Tier, it was the Lisbon Blue Devils who made a strong statement that they are a league contender with a 61-39 victory over the South Range Raiders Tuesday night. The win boosts the Devils record to 7-3 overall, 4-1 in the ITCL, and keeps them on the tails of league leading Springfield. The Raiders fall to 6-4, 4-2 in the ITCL.
“You got one team that’s getting the job done every single night, and we’re all chasing them,” Huckshold commented on staying close to Springfield in the league race. “They have won it for three years and we’re all chasing them.”
“Consistency has been a problem this year at times,” Devils Coach Chris Huckshold remarked about some of the Devils struggles. “We do a lot of waving as we call it, highs and lows. We’ll have a great spurt for four or five minutes then have a let up and let them get on a 6-0 or 8-0 run.”
But, behind solid play from the Devils’ junior forwards Austin Rutecki and Josh Craig, they raced out to a 19-4 first quarter lead and rode that early momentum to keep the Raiders from making any series threat. Rutecki would score a game high 20 points, while Craig added 14. Jared White would also chip in 13 points on the night, including three second half slam dunks.
“It was great, pressuring them, making them force some passes that they don’t want to make, getting turnovers and getting the fast break going and scoring some layups gave us some confidence,” Rutecki remarked. “Defensive pressure was a big help (tonight).”
“Defensively it was just intensity and denying the wings and causing turnovers. Helping each other out. It’s a team defense, and we bring it,” Craig added.
“Bottom line is against a team like that you can’t go down 20-6 and let their best two players get 26 of the 32 points in the first half,” Raiders Coach John Cullen said. “Rutecki played great, he was just better than anyone we had tonight. And Josh Craig, I though he did a good job of battling inside.”
The Raiders did refocus themselves in the second frame of the contest as they went on a 12-8 run to start the stanza, and trailed by just 12 at the halftime intermission 32-20. But that would be as close as they could get as the Devils started the second half on a 12-4 run and led 46-28 after three quarters.
South Range would whittle away at the deficit to cut it to a 16-point difference early in the fourth, but three straight Devils baskets pushed their advantage back to 22 at 54-32 with 4:02 remaining in the game. Craig connecting on the last bucket to crush any last minute Raider hopes.
“We’ve had a lot of games this year where we gave up a lot more points than we should have. Be it a defensive let down, lack of intensity, whatever the excuse is, but they are excuses. But at the end of the day the kids busted their butts tonight, it was a team win. Every kid that played gave a total effort,” Huckshold said.
“They communicate very well,” Cullen said of the Devils. “When you have four three-year starters your going to have some (good) communication. They play off each other pretty well.”
The Raiders were paced by senior forward Garrett Anderson with 11 points while sophomore guard Taymer Graham added 8.
With the Devils just one game behind Springfield they are looking to stay focused and take it one game at a time. “Being one game (behind) is not a big deal,” Craig remarked. “I mean we have them (Springfield) coming up soon, but we’re focused on East Palestine right now.”
Lisbon will travel to East Palestine Friday night, while South Range will host United.
South Range won the JV contest 53-32, however the Devils Noah Barnes had a game-high 9 points to lead all scorers.
COURTESY: Lowell Spencer – ITCLFootball.net