SALINEVILLE - Just as Southern started putting the heat on an undefeated Lisbon squad, the Indians' shooters went ice cold for the rest of the game.
After opening the game with a 10-2 run, Southern's offense was shut down by a stifling Lisbon zone as the Blue Devils won 57-36 on Friday.
The Indians appeared poised to make a statement win as they opened up an eight-point deficit to start the game, sending a packed crowd of Southern supporters into a craze.
Lisbon, however, would end the first quarter by scoring 11 straight points, stealing a lead they would never surrender.
"This is a tough place to play," Lisbon coach Chris Huckshold said. "It's the same gym I played in 20 years ago. They get the crowd going. We called an early timeout and told them to relax. We got back to executing."
Much of the Blue Devils' (5-0, 3-0 upper tier) fortunes changed when they switched from man-to-man to a zone after the timeout. Southern (2-1, 2-1) struggled to adapt and quickly fell behind.
"We struggled a little against the zone," Southern coach George Whittaker said. "We kept getting open looks but nobody could make a shot."
The Indians had a horrid night from the field, going 11-for-59, good for a dismal 18.6 percent.
"This is our third game in four days," Whittaker said. "I think the legs weren't there. It doesn't take much when you're shooting threes for that to throw you off. A lot of balls were just short."
As Southern's offense was sputtering, Lisbon improved as the game went on. The Blue Devils outscored Southern 15-9 in the second quarter to build a 28-19 at the half.
Much of Lisbon's offense was facilitated through sophomore point guard Josh Liberati. Already the school record holder for most assists in a season, Liberati was effective by passing, shooting and defending the ball, finishing with 14 points, six assists and four steals.
"It's all the other guys," Liberati said. "They're the ones who make the layups. I get 'em the ball and they just make it."
"Lib is just a natural leader on the floor," Huckshold said. "He does a great job running our offense. His teammates know if they run and fill the lanes, they're going to get the ball. It turns into easy buckets."
As point guard, Liberati was crucial in setting up plays for Lisbon's offense to run, especially early on when the Blue Devils appeared hurried and frustrated.
"We slowed the game down," Liberati said. "We got into rhythm. I think it went well in the second half. First half, not so well."
Matt Spencer scored 17 points for the Blue Devils, while Josh Craig added nine points and nine rebounds. Austin Rutecki had nine points, 13 rebounds and four assists. Lisbon will visit Columbiana on Tuesday.
Southern was led by Jared Shilot, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds for a double-double. Troy Holden added 13 points, while M.J. Williams grabbed eight rebounds. The Indians are at South Range on Tuesday.
In jayvee action, Southern won 48-36. Josh Brown led the Indians with 13 points, while Jake Liberati had 12 for Lisbon.
SOUTHERN:?10- 9-10- 7-36
LISBON SCORING: Matt Spencer 7-1-17, Austin Davis 0-0-0, Josh Liberati 5-4-14, Austin Rutecki 2-4-9, Trevor Reese 0-0-0, Josh Craig 3-3-9, Avery Andric 2-1-6, Bailey McCullough 0-0-0, Colin Sweeney 1-0-2. TOTALS: 20, 13-27: 57.
SOUTHERN SCORING: M.J. Williams 0-1-1, Jared Shilot 4-2-11, Michael Shope 2-1-6, Andrew Russell 1-0-2, Tim Thrasher 1-0-2, Caleb Gotschall 0-0-0, Troy Holden 4-5-13, Chris Adkins 0-0-0. TOTALS: 12, 10-21: 36.
Three-pointers made: Lisbon 4 (Spencer 2, Rutecki, Andric), Southern 2 (Shilot, Shope).