LISBON - After Avery Andric buried a three as the second quarter clock expired, the Lisbon Blue Devils sprinted into the lockers with a seven-point lead over a Mineral Ridge team which many coaches are pointing to as the class of the Inter-Tri County League upper tier this season.
That surge of excitement for the freshman-oriented Devils only lasted a few minutes however as the junior-heavy Rams came on strong in the second half to take a 73-61 victory.
Mineral Ridge (3-1, 2-0 in the Inter-Tri County League upper tier) was sparked by junior forward Zac Hagy's 25 points. Corey Phillips, a transfer from Austintown Fitch, and Nate Palmer had 14 points each, while Brandon Perkins scored 11 of his 13 points in the third quarter with four fouls against him.
"Lisbon has a very nice team," Mineral Ridge coach Chris Kohl said. "I'm thankful I'm retiring in a few years because I don't want to face these guys when they're juniors and seniors."
Kohl's previous coaching gig was at Cardinal Mooney where he was the head coach for the last four seasons and a varsity assistant four years before that.
"It's very nice (to be considered the favorite)," Kohl said. "But we have to prove ourselves. It doesn't mean anything if we don't come to play. Talk is cheap."
The Rams led by as many as eight in the first quarter before Lisbon (2-2, 1-1) settled down and started to make its move. The Devils were the aggressors in the second quarter and that led to 13 free throw attempts. The fouls, many of them charging violations, frustrated the Rams to the point of Perkins leaving the floor to head to the lockers after picking up his fourth foul - a technical - with 1:30 left in the half.
"We're learning to win," Kohl said. "We have to take the emotion out of it and just play. That's what happened there."
Lisbon outscored the Rams 7-0 in the last minute of the half to grad a surprising 35-28 lead.
"I was humble at the half," Lisbon coach Chris Huckshold said. "In big games this year, we're going to have to play 32 minutes. They picked up the tempo in the second half and instead of being the aggressors, we were chasing them."
Lisbon was 2 of 16 from the floor in the third quarter and lost its lead for good with less than six minutes to play in the frame. Perkins was a big reason for the Rams' rally as he had 11 points in the quarter before fouling out with 2:07 left in the quarter.
The closest Lisbon got in the fourth quarter was five points. Ridge led by as many as 18 before the Devils made a mini-comeback, but it was too little, too late.
"Our shots we're falling in the second half," Huckshold said. "It was a lot like our opener when we were 11 of 60 from the field."
Andric, a freshman, led the Devils with 14 points. Matt Spencer added 10 points and eight rebounds. Josh Craig, a freshman, came off the bench with eight points and 10 rebounds. Freshman Josh Liberati had 10 points and five assists.
Lisbon hosts Jackson-Milton on Friday.