LISBON UNIFIED Basketball team student athlete coaches Jonah Sautter, right and his sister Bree, second from right, cheer a three-point play during Tuesday’s game against Deering/Portland.

LISBON UNIFIED Basketball team student athlete coaches Jonah Sautter, right and his sister Bree, second from right, cheer a three-point play during Tuesday’s game against Deering/Portland.

LISBON FALLS

It was at an early age that Jonah and Bree Sautter learned what coaching was all about.

The two Lisbon athletes grew up around gyms and athletic facilities. If they weren’t playing sports as blossoming young athletes, they were watching their parents coach. They learned the game and understood the sacrifice and effort that comes with any athletic endeavor.

AMANDA MASON throws up a shot during a Unified basketball South Region Final on Tuesday. Lisbon hosts Hampden Academy tonight at 6 p.m. in the Unified Championship game.

AMANDA MASON throws up a shot during a Unified basketball South Region Final on Tuesday. Lisbon hosts Hampden Academy tonight at 6 p.m. in the Unified Championship game.

So when Lisbon’s Unified basketball team needed student coaches, the Sautters were the perfect addition to an already successful program.

“It’s really nice to be part of something that’s not about you,” said Bree Sautter, a senior at Lisbon. “It’s about the athletes and seeing them do well.”

That’s something she has experienced from a variety of coaches as well as her parents, Doug and Nicole. Doug currently is an assistant with the Lisbon track team and has been active coaching at various levels of the basketball program. Doug and Nicole teamed up to coach the Lisbon girls’ team at one time.

“Both me and my sister thought this is a chance for the athletes to get in froƒnt of people and show what they can do,” said Jonah Sautter, a sophomore. “Watching them do that and having the spotlight on them is really cool.”

Now the Sautter siblings will be part Lisbon’s attempt at winning a state championship Thursday. The unbeaten Greyhounds (12-0) host unbeaten Hampden (12- 0) at 6 p.m. for the Unified basketball state title. The Broncos beat Lisbon last year 32-30 in overtime.

“It’s really been our main goal, but its been hard to keep everyone focused on one game at a time because its easy to overlook it,” Bree said. “I think we’ve done well with that.”

Both Bree and Jonah were standout basketball players on Lisbon’s varsity teams. Both also run track in the spring. Bree runs cross country while Jonah is the goalie on the boys’ soccer team.

“We had Johnny Yin last year,” Lisbon coach Terri Tlumac said. “Jonah was just a freshman last year. He asked if we’d like some student coaches this year. We said, ‘We’d love some student coaches.’ So he and Bree jumped right on board, and they’ve been nothing but an asset to the program.”

Both Sautters watched the team in action last year. They loved the success the Greyhounds had in winning a regional title and getting to the states. It only made them want to be part of it.

“I saw how good they did last year,” Jonah said. “I like how into it the kids are. They’re always looking forward to it. I wanted to help them out and show them things they can work on and do.”

Despite having a hectic varsity season, the Unified team and experience was worth making time for.

“I went to all the games last year, and it was something I liked being part of,” said Bree, who was the only senior on the girls’ varsity basketball team this winter. “I knew Jonah would love coaching. I like being a leader. I’m not necessarily as loud as Jonah, but it’s really awesome to be part of it. I love it.”

The Lisbon team isn’t exactly short on coaches. Tlumac is assisted by Jody Benson. Both were coaches last year. The addition of the Sautters gives the team a peer-coaching-peer dynamic that enhances the coaching staff and its ability to teach the athletes.

“They’re really respectful,” Bree said. “We can joke around and stuff, but there’s also a lot of respect. We all get along really well.”

It was a little confusing at first. With the core of the team being juniors, many of the athletes are actually older than Jonah.

“One of the athletes said, ‘Are you an athlete or are you a student?’” Jonah said. “I said, ‘I’m just as old as you are, buddy.’ So now every time I see him in the hallway I say, ‘Hi.’ It’s great watching the kids and looking forward to practice and looking forward to the games and shooting around and having a good time.”

Jonah has the coaching presence down pat in his prominent role in front of the bench. He often has the thoughtful coaching pose with his hand on his chin while he watches the action. When he needs to coach the team up, he’ll deliver orders with whatever brand of intensity is needed. Bree is more behind the scenes while on the bench. She encourages the players and shares her knowledge of the game. Either style, the athletes feed off the youthful energy of the student coaches.

“My role mainly is pulling people off to the side after they come out or before they go in,” Bree said. “I talk to them about little things they need to work on.”

With Tlumac and Benson, it makes for a wonderful team of coaches that offers different perspectives.

“The camaraderie that has been built this season is awesome,” Tlumac said. “The respect that the students have for the basketball team, they respect Jonah and Bree’s decisions. They really enjoy their company and their efforts that take time out of their day to work with them.”

Being players themselves, the Sautter’s know what it takes to succeed. Whether it is during a game or in practice, they have helped the athletes learn. Being peers, they’re able to share their experience from a different perspective than an adult.

“It’s more of a casual thing where you have someone your own age talking to you about it,” Bree said. “It nice having had that experience because not everyone notices the little things, but they certainly add up and are important.”

It has been those little aspects of the game that the coaches have tried to emphasize. Whether its a steal or winning a loose ball, Lisbon strives for the hustle plays and creates a buzz on the bench when those plays are made.

“Scoring baskets are a good part of it, but we work on the little things that add up to the win,” Jonah said. “Those hustle plays like saving the ball out of bounds or great defensive plays, they realize that little things add up, and that’s why we’ve done so well as a team.”

Lisbon hopes that all adds up to a win Thursday. Hampden beat Lewiston in Tuesday’s regional final by a similar 20-point margin that Lisbon beat Deering/Portland. Sophomore Kenny Brewer- Frazee led the Broncos with 22 points. He helped lead Hampden to the win over Lisbon last year with 15 points and eight steals. Isaiah Palmer, Tyler Hewey, Zach Ewing, Kelsey Tripp and Robbie Martin all scored for the Broncos in the regional final Tuesday.

Much of Lisbon’s team played in the game last year and that experience and balance showed in the regional championship win over Deering/Portland. Brock Vachon and Jake Patenaude, who led Lisbon in the state game last year, were double-digit scorers Tuesday. Lisbon also got strong games from fellow juniors Brandon Bartlett and Amanda Mason as well as sophomore Wesley Lucas and freshman Dawson Martel. Partners like Tyler Halls, Ryley Austin and Austin Fournier were part of last year’s team as well.

Lisbon was up 18-6 in the first half of last year’s game and missed opportunities late to break the tie. It was a Hampden basket in the final seconds of overtime that proved decisive. It is a disappointment that has lingered and fueled the Greyhounds this season.

“Right when the season started, I asked them ‘What’s your goal this season?’” Jonah recalls. “They wanted to get to the state game. They won the regional game last year and came up just a little short. They came back and have proven me right every day when I say that they know the game and they know what they’re doing. I’m very proud of them.”

UNIFIED BASKETBALL CHAMPIONSHIP – HAMPDEN AT LISBON, TONIGHT, 6 P.M.


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