By BRANDON JUDEH
The Lisbon and Springfield boys basketball teams engaged in two epic battles during the course of the regular season, with the teams splitting the games.
Things were no different Tuesday night as the experienced Tigers met the young Blue Devils in a Division III district semifinal at Salem High School.
This time, Lisbon stunned Springfield, 55-53, in overtime to advance to a district final against Canton Central Catholic on Friday night.
The game went into overtime after Lisbon sophomore point guard Josh Liberati was fouled in mid-air, threw up a behind-the-head-shot and somehow made it with just 16 seconds remaining.
“I have no idea how that shot went in,” Liberati said. “I honestly don’t know. I didn’t even know it went in until after a couple of my teammates jumped on me after the play was over.”
Liberati missed the foul shot and Springfield had a chance to win in regulation, but Mark Schuler’s layup attempt was blocked, sending the game into the extra period.
Lisbon dominated the tempo in overtime with Austin Rutecki scoring four of the five Lisbon points to help the Blue Devils (21-4) hold on.
“Coming into this game we knew it was going to come down to who made the most shots and who made the least amount of mistakes,” said Lisbon head coach Chris Huckshold. “Fortunately in overtime we got the shots we wanted and were able to break their defense down.”
With 10 seconds remaining Springfield (18-5) had a chance to tie or win it, but a missed shot and turnover secured the game for the Blue Devils.
Springfield ‘s players looked at the scoreboard in disbelief, while Lisbon and its enormous student section — awash in a sea of blue — celebrated.
Six of Lisbon’s top seven players are sophomores, but no one would ever have guessed it as Liberati and company looked calm throughout.
“This is a special win,” Liberati said. “We have been playing together since we were about 10 years old and we have known each other since we could barely walk. We have a ton of chemistry.”
Lisbon recovered quickly after Schuler and the Tigers dominated the first half and led 29-18 at the break.
Schuler had 10 points in the first half, but did not score again.
“We made some adjustments at halftime,” Liberati said. “We doubled Schuler from the back side, which helped out a lot and Josh Craig really stood his ground.”
Liberati finished with 15 points and five assists. Rutecki had a double-double with 17 points and 13 boards and Avery Andric added 11 points.
“Lisbon started double-teaming Schuler, so he had to kick the ball out a lot, but we needed to find better ways to get him the ball,” Springfield coach Eric Fender said. “But you know what? You can’t ask for a better high school basketball game. Both teams played great and the fans were wonderful.”
Mincher led all scorers with 22 points. Schuler added 10 rebounds.