The Blue Devils won 53-49 in the preliminary game at YSU.
By BRIAN RICHESSON
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
YOUNGSTOWN -- As it heads into the Division III tournament, the Lisbon High basketball team can only benefit from its experience Sunday at Youngstown State's Beeghly Center.
Anticipating the appearance of Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary and star LeBron James, nearly 6,000 fans arrived in time to see Lisbon hold off Slippery Rock 53-49 in the first game of a doubleheader.
"We tried to approach it as a tournament-type game -- big floor, different atmosphere, unfamiliar opponent," Lisbon coach Joe Siefke said. "There were a lot of positives as far as the win and how the kids prepared."
Lisbon heads into the tournament with some momentum. Its victory Sunday capped a 17-3 season in which it won the Tri-County League.
"Even though we have a couple of good players that can do some things consistently, that's not what we base our program on," said Siefke, emphasizing a balanced attack.
"It's about contributing, knowing your role, being able to do things at the offensive and defensive end and working on your weaknesses throughout the year."
Vanished: The Blue Devils nearly let the game slip away at the end. Their 12-point lead they enjoyed early in the fourth quarter vanished as Slippery Rock closed to within 50-49 with 42 seconds to play.
Sophomore Jay Yorty helped Lisbon maintain control. After senior teammate Andy Sell missed two free throws with 18.9 seconds remaining, Yorty grabbed the rebound and sophomore Lucian Smith was fouled.
Smith, who scored 17 points, hit two free throws to extend Lisbon's lead to 52-49, and Slippery Rock senior Zach Sarver missed a 3-point attempt with eight seconds remaining.
"It got a little hairy at the end; we missed some free throws," said Siefke, whose team made only 4-of-15 free throws in the fourth quarter. "It was nice for Lucian to make those two down the stretch."
In control early: Lisbon gained the confidence it needed by taking a 16-5 first-quarter lead and holding it throughout.
"Any time you put high school kids in an unfamiliar atmosphere, they're going to be a little bit tense, as well as a little bit excited," Siefke said.
"We were able to put them in spots defensively where they could work some of that nerves and energy out and just try to focus and execute on offense."
Senior center Ben Dickey scored a game-high 20 points, with 11 rebounds and three blocks for Lisbon.
Sarver led Slippery Rock with 12 points, while junior Brett Codispot added 11.