Free throws lift Mineral Ridge past Lisbon, 54-49

MINERAL RIDGE – If anyone left Friday night’s Lisbon versus Mineral Ridge, they missed quite a finish.

Mineral Ridge overcame a young Lisbon squad to chalk up its 10th win of the season, 54-49.

Mineral Ridge went into the fourth quarter leading 35-34, but soon after the quarter began, Lisbon’s Austin Rutecki nailed a 3-pointer to pull the Blue Devils ahead 37-35.

Later in the fourth, Ridge regained a two-point lead, only to lose it again when Rutecki hit another 3-ball, putting the Blue Devils up 42-41. That was his second of five 3-pointers on the night.

After the 3-pointer, the Rams’ Corey Phillips answered back with a 3-pointer of his own, giving Mineral Ridge a 44-42 lead. But soon after, Lisbon tied the game back up on a Corey Brammer layup.

The Rams took back the lead on a Nate Palmer free-throw, and the foul shot was part of a trend on the evening. Mineral Ridge scored its last nine points from the charity stripe. In the last minute, the Rams shot a quality 9 of 11 from the line.

“Free throws were big,” Palmer said. “They were really the difference.”

Palmer finished with 13 points for Mineral Ridge.

The finish was impressive, as the Rams (10-4, 8-1 Inter Tri-County League, Upper Tier) were able to rebound from a lackluster first quarter.

The Blue Devils started the game on a 7-0 run. In the first four minutes of the game, Mineral Ridge shot 0-5 from the field and coughed up three turnovers.

Mineral Ridge coach Chris Kohl was proud of how his team recovered.

“Defensively, we got a lot better in the fourth quarter,” Kohl said. “We caught our composure, we were rushing everything. We slowed down and we played better team basketball in the third and fourth quarter.”

Phillips led the way for the Rams, scoring 20 points and hitting five 3-pointers.

“I felt good out there,” Phillips said. “I listened to my coach and my teammates, they pushed me.”

Kohl had nothing but high regards for Phillips.

“I’m really glad we have Corey Phillips,” Kohl stated. “He has been our steadiest ballplayer. He usually gets us going and he hit some really clutch shots.”

Lisbon’s Rutecki was the game’s leading scorer, dropping 25 -12 of those points coming in the fourth quarter.

“Austin is a really great basketball player,” Lisbon coach Chris Huckshold said. “That was his best outside performance of the year. He did a really great job tonight and the past couple of games. He has a bright future.”

Huckshold mentioned consistency is essential for Lisbon (5-8, 3-6) to rebound from the loss.

“We’ve battled consistency all year long,” Huckshold said. “We had four, five possessions that we played 1 on 1, and that’s when the momentum swung.”

After only winning seven games last season, Kohl has turned the Mineral Ridge program around.

“I’m really proud of these guys. To win 10 games right now, that’s a heck of an accomplishment.”