By Greg Gulas
Chris Kohl has already led Mineral Ridge to three more victories than it had last season.
He thinks the best is yet to come.
Corey Phillips had 20 points, including five from beyond the arc, as the Rams stopped Lisbon, 54-49 in an Inter Tri-County League Tier One boys basketball game on Friday.
It was Ridge’s fifth straight win and 10th overall.
“You have to give credit to our players because these guys have bought into our system from our first practice,” said Kohl, who was Cardinal Mooney’s head coach last season. “Corey [Phillips] has been our steadiest player all year and he’s the guy that stirs the pot for us. Hitting five triples tonight, many at critical times in the game, was big.
“We played better defensively in the second half and especially in the fourth quarter. We regained our composure, slowed it down and then played our game.”
Lisbon (5-8, 3-6) started four freshmen and a junior and for the better part of a half, dictated the tempo of the game.
Like their previous meeting, a 73-61 win by the Rams back on Dec.11, the Blue Devils held the halftime advantage, 21-18.
“Lisbon is a nice team and tonight was another challenge for us,” said Mineral Ridge’s Nate Palmer. “We were down at the half the first time that we met and while we started out in a zone defense, switching to a man-to-man was the big difference for us.”
The third quarter became a duel between Lisbon’s Austin Rutecki (12 points) and Phillips (10) as the Rams narrowed their deficit to 35-34 entering the fourth.
Two more triples by Phillips at the outset of the fourth gave Ridge a two-point lead but Corey Brammer’s floater tied it at 44 with 1:48 left.
Mineral Ridge (10-4, 8-1) then scored its final 10 points from the charity stripe.
“Coach Kohl told us to be more aggressive and hit the glass at both ends of the court. Pushing the tempo in the second half also was big,” Phillips noted.
Lisbon coach Chris Huckshold said consistency has been a problem all season for his Blue Devils.
SDLqWe’ve been playing young all year as our top seven include four freshmen, two juniors and a senior,” he said. “We’ve battle consistency all season and tonight, it was just four or five possessions that caused the momentum to shift. These kids get along really well and there’s plenty of team chemistry. We’ll learn from this and only get better.”’
The Blue Devils held a 30-27 rebound advantage with Ryan Nutter hauling in nine rebounds for the Rams and Matt Spencer grabbing a team-high seven caroms for Lisbon.