LISBON-The Lisbon bsketball resurgence this season may have been sparked by the Blue Devils talented quartet of sophomores, but the steady influence behind the whole operation has been that of forward Matt Spencer, the team's lone senior.
On a night when he was honored in his last regular season home game, Spencer saluted the home fans in style, scoring a season-high 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds as the Blue Devils destroyed East Palestine 79-42 Friday.
"It meant a lot to have a game like this tonight," Spencer said. "The other guys came out focusing on getting me the ball which I really appreciated."
The Blue Devils close out the regular season at 18-4 and 11-3 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier. Lisbon will host United in a Div. III sectional opener at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Spencer-who first started as a sophomore-endured a rough first couple of seasons without much team success before the sophomore class came aboard and began to turn things around with 10 wins last season and this year's second-place conference finish. Lisbon coach Chris Huckshold considers Spencer's experience during the down years to be invaluable on this young squad
"Matt's been a warrior," Huckshold said. "He's been through some tough times on this team when we weren't winning many games and players weren't getting along. I saw early on that he was going to be a leader and it was just a matter of him taking the mantle when it was his time. These last two years has embraced the experience of playing with young players. This team has gained terrific chemistry and I give a lot of that credit to Matt."
After enduring a couple of early seasons without much team success, Spencer-a two year starter-feels energized about making a second and final tournament run with his young teammates.
He had plenty of help from those sophomore on this night. Avery Andric knocked down five threes and finished with 17 points, while Austin Rutecki had 13 points and Josh Craig had 12 points as the Blue Devils opened up on fire from three-point range and sailed ahead 26-6 after one quarter. The lead would never be less than 20 the rest of the way. Lisbon finished with 10 three-pointers.
"We are playing very mature basketball right now," Spencer said. "The ball movement tonight was outstanding and guys were hitting open shots."
East Palestine closes its regular season at 4-16 overall and 4-10 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier. Alec Dumbauld led the Bulldogs with eight points.
East Palestine has been a work in progress under first year coach Sean McKeown, but are anxious to start fresh when they travel to Jackson-Milton to open sectional play at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
"We've asked the guys to adapt to a different style of play and have had a bunch of guys playing different positions," McKewon said. "They have done a good job of accepting our coaching and the hope is that it will pay off in the tournament."
Lisbon won the jayvee game 48-31. Colin Sweeney had 17 points for the Blue Devils. Jared Spratt had eight points for the Bulldogs.
Spencer was removed to a standing ovation with 2:37 left in the game.
"These last four years have been great," Spencer said. "The guys on this team have bonded like brothers and it felt really good to be able to share tonight with them."
Lisbon won the first meeting 57-53.
The 50/50 prize was $82.
EAST PALESTINE: 6-13-8-15-42
EAST PALESTINE SCORING: Billy Bibby 3-0-7, Steven Parker 0-0-0, Nick Monteleone 1-1-3, Grant Wagner 0-0-0, Alec Dumbauld 3-0-8, Payton Patterson 1-0-3, Trevor Kimmel 1-0-2, Colin Reidy 2-2-7, Mike Harmon 1-0-2, Josh Pickett 1-0-2, Alex Robb 0-0-0, Jamie Molnar 0-2-2, Tom Dumbauld 2-0-6. TEAM TOTALS: 15, 5-11: 42.
LISBON SCORING: Matt Spencer 8-1-20, Avery Andric 6-0-17, Austin Rutecki 4-4-13, Josh Liberati 3-0-7, Josh Craig 4-0-8, Austin Davis 0-0-0, Trevor Reese 1-0-2, Jared Merriman 0-0-0, Colin Sweeney 0-0-0, Bailey McCullough 0-0-0, Jake Liberati 0-0-0, Jason Thompson 0-2-2, Jannik Schmidt 2-0-4, Jared White 0-0-0, TEAM TOTALS: 28, 11-14: 79.
Three-point goals: East Palestine 7 (Alec Dumbauld 2, Tom Dumbauld 2, Bibby, Patterson, Reidy), Lisbon 10 (Andric 5, Spencer 3, Rutecki, Liberati).