Spartans Race to Victory
No. 2 Lebanon Falls to No. 1 Pembroke
Lebanon’s Nic Shepherd (10) converts a layup while blocked by Pembroke’s Dominic Timbas (21) and Kafani Williams (23) during the Raiders’ boys basketball game with the visiting Spartans last night. Pembroke remained unbeaten in a 66-43 victory. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon High senior Lindsay Pullen, center, holds her breath as the Raiders attempt a shot. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon’s Nic Shepherd (10) passes the ball to teammate Dylan Drew (24) while Pembroke’s Patrick Welch (15) and Matt Persons wait in the background. (Valley News - Sarah Priestap) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — His team leading by more than 20 points in the second half, Pembroke Academy boys basketball coach Matt Alosa wasn’t about to relent on his defensive game plan.
The home crowd at Lang Metcalf Gym quieted by Pembroke’s impressive second half, it was easy to hear Alosa’s instructions when Lebanon had the ball — and they were always the same.
“Find David Hampton!” Alosa beseeched. “Find David Hampton!”
The Spartans did just that in a battle of the top two teams in New Hampshire Division II, holding Hampton to a season-low eight points while rolling to a 66-43 win.
Pembroke improved to 11-0 in NHIAA play; the Raiders slipped to 7-3 in D-II and 8-4 overall.
Having recently notched his 1,000th career point and entering the contest averaging 21.6 per game, Hampton sank two of the Raiders’ seven 3-pointers but was largely ineffective against the Spartans’ aggressive and physical defense.
Pembroke has its own 1,000-point scorer in Pat Welch, who notched the milestone Dec. 29 against Bow. Welch scored 13 last night.
“Guys like Pat Welch and David Hampton, you just can’t leave them alone no matter what else you’re trying to do,” said Alosa. “I’ve seen Hampton play, and I know he can score 35 points on you before you know what happened. So it didn’t matter how much we were up; we were going to guard David Hampton.”
Junior Dominick Morrill matched a career high with 13 points for Lebanon, but it wasn’t nearly enough as the Raiders shot just 30 percent from the field (13-for-42) and were outrebounded by a bigger Spartan team, 21-16.
“We just didn’t execute our offense,” said Lebanon coach Kieth Matte, whose team lost to Pembroke for the fourth straight time. “I thought we were nerved up, and it showed. No excuses, but we’ve been missing some practices lately, (Monday) because of the weather and Saturday because of a youth basketball day we ran. I don’t think you can fault our guys for the effort.”
Matt Persons (game-high 19 points) sank four 3s for the Spartans, who never trailed and doubled up the Raiders in the second-half scoring, 34-17.
Pembroke owned the first quarter, jumping out to a 9-0 lead in the first three minutes and leading 16-2 before Hampton’s first 3-pointer.
Morrill hit a pair of 3s in the second quarter as the Raiders fought back into it, his second trifecta coming after a long offensive rebound to make it 23-13.
Morrill was later fouled on another long-ball attempt and sank all three free throws, starting a 10-2 Lebanon run to end the half. Kalin Sou scored four points during the rally, and Nic Shepherd’s 3-pointer cut it to 32-26.
Lebanon kept its momentum — and long-range accuracy — intact after the break, with back-to-back 3s from senior Vincent Guerin and Hampton, a swish, making it 38-34 Pembroke midway through the third quarter. Finally, the home crowd was into it.
“For a little while, we were finding guys open and things were going our way,” Matte said. “We got right back into the game, but just couldn’t keep it going.”
Pembroke had the perfect answer to Lebanon’s bombs from beyond the arch — blowing the game wide open with their own 3-point barrage.
Rene Maher (12 points) began the assault with Pembroke’s fourth trey of the night to make it 41-34 and, after Maher kissed one off the glass for a layup, Persons hits 3s on three of the Spartans’ next four possessions to cap a 16-0 run and built Pembroke’s largest lead of the night at the time, 53-34, less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
“(Lebanon) was doing a good job paying attention to our guys underneath, but we have a lot of weapons and we made adjustments,” said Alosa. “If you’re going to force it outside, we like to think that we can hit the 3 and Persons is someone who can definitely do that. He’s done that for us before.”
The Spartans only extended their lead in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Raiders 16-9 and holding their largest lead of the night with a minute to play, 66-41, when Maher hit yet another from downtown.
Lebanon fell from second to fifth place with the loss and has a difficult schedule during the final month of the season, playing at 6-2 Coe-Brown on Friday before hosting crosstown rival Hanover on Tuesday. The Raiders also face 6-2 Bishop Brady and a rematch with Pembroke, both on the road, during their final eight games.
“It’s still wide open in Division II,” Matte said. “I’m still optimistic, but our schedule is brutal.”
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.