Unlucky seven: For the Warren John F. Kennedy High girls basketball team, seven proved to be an unlucky number. Warren JFK entered the season with just seven players in its entire high school program. Now, five games into the season, the low numbers forced school administrators to pull the plug on the remainder of the campaign. Athletic director John Gillen on Thursday confirmed that the Eagles would not play any of their remaining games on the 2012-13 schedule. Warren JFK was 0-5. Its last game, played on Monday, resulted in a 65-29 loss to Girard. “We just had to make a decision based on safety, and we felt that it was in the best interest of our players to stop the season at this point,” Gillen said. “It just came down to what was best for those who were still part of the program. We’ll regroup and look forward to next year.” Gillen noted that injuries and illnesses forced the Eagles to play several games this year with no bench players. He said there was no specific reason for the lack of numbers within the program. “We lost five girls from last year’s team to graduation, and we just didn’t have enough come out to fill the void,” Gillen said. Just two years ago, Warren JFK went 18-5 and advanced to the district finals. Last year, the Eagles went 13-9.

Youthful Blue Devils: Fans attending Lisbon High basketball games this winter may be tricked into believing they are at a freshmen contest. In reality, they’ll just be witnessing the area’s most youthful varsity team. Lisbon’s starting lineup includes three freshmen. A fourth freshman is the team’s sixth man, and plays considerable minutes. The Fab Four are Josh Liberati, Austin Rutecki, Avery Andric and Josh Craig. “It’s pretty unique,” Lisbon coach Chris Huckshold said. “I’ve never coached, or coached against a team with this much youth. And the beauty of it is, they have done a wonderful job of handling all the pressure. They only look young. To see them play, you wouldn’t know they were in the ninth grade.” Craig is averaging 12 points per game. He scored a season-high 25 last week in a win over Leetonia, then came off the bench on Tuesday to score eight points and pull down 10 rebounds in a loss to Mineral Ridge. Liberati (10.1 ppg) and Andric (6 ppg) have each recorded a pair of double-digit games while Rutecki (8.2 ppg) has been strong both offensively and as a rebounder. “Our first game, I looked at these kids and they had a blank look on their faces, like it just hit them that they were playing varsity,” Huckshold said. “By last week, they were relaxed and joking around in the locker room. They were acting like veterans.” Lisbon (2-2, 1-1) hosts Jackson-Milton tonight.

Rasile’s triumphant return: For eight years, Jeff Rasile guided the McDonald High basketball program to new heights. From 2003-11, Rasile compiled a 164-28 record. He led the Devils to eight straight Division IV district finals and took the 2011 squad to the school’s first regional final. Then in March 2011, with McDonald riding a 63-game regular season winning streak, Rasile decided to step aside from the coaching ranks. He was replaced by longtime assistant Brian Higgins. “Mentally and physically, I was just beat up. I needed a rest,” Rasile said. “It’s funny, because you would think that losing would take a lot out of a guy. But our success wore me down. The more we won, the more pressure there was to maintain the success.” Following a one-year hiatus, Rasile is back at the helm in McDonald. And, he hasn’t missed a beat. The Devils are off to a 4-0 start. Rasile’s personal 67-game regular-season winning streak is an all-time best among Trumbull County coaches. While Rasile didn’t coach last winter, he did remain close to the program. “I went to a lot of McDonald games,” Rasile said. “Coach Higgins and I are very close. He’s been my assistant throughout my career. And, I had a strong relationship with all those players, so I wanted to be there to show support.” Ironically, Rasile said he also learned some valuable coaching lessons while following his daughter’s soccer program. The league requires playing time for all participants. “I brought that philosophy to our junior high program,” Rasile said. “This year, we only kept players who we felt had the opportunity to compete down the road. Now, all the players we kept will get considerable playing time. We want them to be fully prepared for the next level.” With a renewed energy, Rasile said he hopes to continue to coach “for years to come.”

Steve Ruman

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