New Coach, New Lineup for Lebanon Girls Basketball
Lebanon's varsity coach Rob Marsh, center, discusses a play with the girls varsity basketball team during practice at Lebanon High in Lebanon, N.H., on December 4, 2013. Marsh was moved into the varsity position after coaching the junior varsity team for years. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon's Sam MacDonald, center, tries to shoot during girls varsity practice at Lebanon High in Lebanon, N.H., on December 4, 2013. Coach Rob Marsh was moved to varsity coach after coaching the junior varsity team for years. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — Dealing with changes coming off of last year’s 24-0 state championship season, it might appear as though pressure is on the Lebanon High girls basketball team to keep its torrid success alive. Instead, the Raiders plan to keep the pressure on opponents.
Despite losing half of its offense to graduation, and as well as longtime coach Tim Kehoe for family reasons, Lebanon figures to remain a force in New Hampshire Division II. That’s nothing new — the Raiders have been to the Class I/D-II quarterfinals a whopping 35 consecutive years and reached five title games since 2007, winning two — but they’ll have to do it this year without first-team all-staters Moriah Morton and Emily Kehoe.
A 1,000-point scorer with the Raiders who averaged 17.3 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.7 steals as a senior, Morton is now on the women’s basketball roster at Dartmouth College. Emily Kehoe, Tim’s daughter, averaged 16.3 points, four assists and five steals per game last winter and is now suiting up for St. Joseph’s (Maine) College.
Tim Kehoe, a physical education teacher at the school, went 423-85 (.833) with four state titles over 22 years with the program, but is on hiatus to assist his brother, Ed, in his battle with cancer.
Despite those losses, the Raiders have plenty of continuity returning. Interim coach Rob Marsh spent the last 12 years coaching under Kehoe with the Raiders’ jayvee program, compiling a record of 183-49. The coaches’ shared philosophy has been supremely consistent over the years — vigorous pressure on defense and relentlessly running to the basket on offense — and nothing will change with Marsh steering the ship.
Lebanon returns three starters, including seniors Heather King (10.4 ppg; 7.0 rebounds per game in 2012-13) and Samantha MacDonald (9.0 ppg). Junior center Vanessa Fleury (6.0 ppg; 4.7 rpg) is also back, though she’s sidelined for the time being while recovering from a broken foot suffered over the summer playing AAU ball.
“It’s the same system, with a lot of the same players,” said Marsh, an Enfield native and former three-sport standout at Mascoma Regional High. “We lost two really good players who scored a lot of points, but the ones we have coming back are better and more mature ball players (than before). We’re going to keep it simple and that’s how we’re going to stay successful.
“I think there is pressure to succeed, but it’s not coming from Mr. Kehoe or from (fans). I think it’s pressure we put on ourself. We feel an obligation to compete at an elite level, but it’s not coming from the outside.”
MacDonald returns to the point guard position, where she had 87 assists in 23 games a year ago. She and King, a 5-foot-11 forward, come back faster and more athletic after playing AAU ball in the offseason, in addition to frequenting the weight room and gymnasium. King, MacDonald and senior guard Jennifer Laramie are tri-captains.
“Samantha, I think, can be the best point guard in the state,” Marsh said. “Heather was honorable mention (all-state) last year and she could easily be a first-teamer this season. They’re both going to have more of a leadership role this year. We have a lot of great leaders this year who sort of had a back seat to (Morton and Kehoe) last year. Now it’s their turn.”
The Raiders should also benefit from the arrival of junior sparkplug Lindsey Clark, a Windsor High transfer who scored four points per game off the bench for the similarly run-and-gun oriented Yellowjackets a year ago.
“She fits right in with what we do here and the concepts that we have,” Marsh said. “She plays with a lot of energy and will be a key addition. She and (Laramie) are both high energy, high impact players who are really going to help fill the void with players like Morton and Kehoe out of the picture.”
At 6-foot-1, Fleury admirably filled in for unexpected departure Trina Scheie at center last season. She’ll have to wait until her right foot heals before contributing this season. Fleury’s replacement, senior Mariah Ramos, had 55 rebounds in 20 games a year ago.
“She definitely deserves to start,” said Marsh, who also coached Ramos at the jayvee level.
The Raiders open with two straight on the road, beginning next Friday at Pembroke Academy. Their home opener is Dec. 20 against rival Hanover.
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.