A Small Run Gives Lebanon a Big Victory
Lebanon's Martin Gradijan, left, blocks a shot by Hanover's Rocco Linehan, center, during their game in Lebanon, N.H., on December 20, 2013. Lebanon won the game 51-45. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Hanover's Rocco Linehan, left, goes up for a shot against Lebanon's Kalin Sou during their game in Lebanon, N.H., on December 20, 2013. Lebanon won the game 51-45. (Valley News - Elijah Nouvelage) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — Basketball folks call it a run. The one the Lebanon High boys basketball team used to craft a 51-45 win over Hanover on Friday night didn’t involve the kind of running implied in the term.
The Raiders (1-1) held a 30-26 lead on the Marauders (1-2) halfway through the second half of Friday’s Wechsler Cup doubleheader. Lebanon hit just two of its first six shots after halftime, yet held a 36-26 advantage with 3:44 left in the quarter.
The 6-0 “run” was enough, however. Raider defenders held Hanover to just four third-quarter points, and Lebanon’s lead hovered between eight and 13 points the rest of the night, a late Marauder surge notwithstanding in front of a holiday-swollen packed house at Lang Metcalf Gym.
“That was a defensive run, where we just got a lot of stops in a row,” Lebanon coach Kieth Matte agreed. “I think, defensively, that’s what got it done, because we weren’t hitting shots. They played great defense.
“We’ve got nine kids in a rotation. There’s no reason for us to ever be tired; there’s no reason for us to never get at a loose ball, never to go after the glass. That nine-man rotation makes it hard to score on us.”
All of which meant no one person had to carry Lebanon on the scoreboard.
Nic Shepherd paced the Raiders with 12 points, including three of the hosts’ five 3-pointers. Kalin Sou netted 11 points, and Martin Gradijan added nine to go with three impressive blocks.
Showing he can score on a basketball court as easily as he does on a soccer pitch, Rocco Linehan dropped a game-high 20 points for the Marauders.
Hanover’s doom came in ball control: That six-point “run” in the third quarter coincided with four Marauder turnovers in six possessions. Hanover turned the basketball over 24 times, compared with the Raiders’ 16.
“I thought, tonight, we played our best game of the year, and I really like how we compete,” Hanover coach Tim Winslow said. “I think our defense is pretty good. I’m not concerned about our defense right now. … Our goal going into the next couple of weeks is to really work on our offense and really get stronger at offense.”
A track meet of a first period — Lebanon left it holding a 19-18 lead — slowed down into typical fender-bender basketball for much of the rest of the night between the old foes. Hanover put Lebanon in the bonus situation at the foul line before the close of the first and third quarters, an opportunity the Raiders (18-for-29) never truly seized.
In fact, a little bit of everything helped Lebanon stretch its halftime lead. Sou drilled a 3 to open the second half, later adding a foul shot. Two more minutes of defense and turnovers yielded nothing until Gradijan pulled a disappearing act on two Hanover defenders, spinning between them for a lay-up that moved the Raiders to a 36-26 advantage with 3:44 left in the quarter.
“It was your classic Lebanon-Hanover — bodies flying everywhere, kids playing really hard,” Matte said. “Super intense.”
Linehan remained the Marauders’ best source of points, hitting two baskets to account for all of Hanover’s third-period points. He had two more buckets in the fourth, but the Raiders’ aggressiveness on the glass frequently limited Hanover to one shot per possession.
“We’re working on consistency, and if we can get better consistently with the ball, we’re going to be fine,” Winslow said. “Our bigs have to be more junkyard-doggish. They’re learning the system, they’re trying to get familiar playing at this level, and once they get comfortable playing, they’re going to be fine.”
Linehan’s last points of the night, from the lane with 2:11 to go to within 49-38, ignited one late Hanover charge. A foul shot from John Flory begat back-to-back Tim O’Rourke trifectas, leaving the Marauders just four points back (49-45) with 26.7 seconds left.
Gradijan canned two late free throws to secure the win for Lebanon.
“Last year, we knew we had a lot of good players who weren’t getting a lot of time,” Matte said. “We said, ‘Bide your time, work on getting better, get after it in the offseason,’ and they did.
“I think the product is that is you’re seeing a team that plays really fast. That’s who we are.”
Free Throws: O’Rourke netted eight points for Hanover. … Austin Whaley came off the bench to add seven points for the Raiders. … Lebanon High graduate Alexander Morrill drew a public-announcement plug for his starting role on the UNH football team, which saw its season end in an FCS semifinal defeat at North Dakota State as his younger brother, Dominick, was running the Lebanon floor. … Ex-Raider David Hampton also took in the doubleheader. … Tournaments await both teams. Hanover will welcome Mascoma, Woodsville and Stevens to its Connecticut River Shootout next weekend. Lebanon returns to the Zero Gravity Invitational at Keene State College on Thursday; the Raiders won the three-day event in 2011.
Greg Fennell can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3226.