Raiders Make the Most of It
Short-Handed Lebanon Outlasts Merrimack Valley
Lebanon’s Austin Pelletier (14) draws a foul from Merrimack Valley’s Nate Mulleavey, right while shooting in the second half. At left is Merrimack Valley’s Ryan Head. Lebanon won the playoff game, 75-66. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
Members of Lebanon High’s boys basketball team put their hands together after a timeout in last night’s playoff game against Merrimack Valley. Lebanon won, 75-66. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon — Attrition — even self-imposed — couldn’t stop the Lebanon High boys basketball team in the first round of the NHIAA Division II playoffs against Merrimack Valley last night.
Playing without third-leading scorer Nic Shepherd for the whole game and without starting forward Dominick Morrill for much of the second half, the Raiders compensated with increased production from role players in a 75-66 win over the Pride at Lang Metcalf Gym.
David Hampton scored 23 points and Austin Pelletier and Austin Whaley had nine apiece for the third-ranked Raiders (16-5; 15-4 D-II), who will host No. 6 Bishop Brady in Saturday night’s quarterfinals. The Giants (12-7), who are 0-2 against Lebanon this year, dispatched No. 11 John Stark in Concord last night, 72-64.
The No. 14 Pride finishes the season 7-12 in league play.
Shepherd (7.5 ppg) — a 6-foot-2 junior coming off a season-best, 14-point game in Lebanon’s regular season finale against Pembroke — served a one-game suspension for an undisclosed violation of team rules.
Morrill, also a junior, was having a career night of his own with 15 points and six rebounds before being issued a technical foul for a brief spat with MV’s Justin Williams less than two minutes into the third quarter. One of Lebanon coach Kieth Matte’s team rules is benching any player who receives a technical for the remainder of the contest.
“I felt bad for Dom, and I felt bad for Nic, too,” said Matte. “If you saw them on the bench you know they didn’t feel great about it. For us to win with those guys out, it’s because we have a lot of good players. We have a lot of kids that can play.”
Lebanon hit seven of its eight 3-pointers in the first half, wiping away an early 7-2 deficit with a 19-0 run to take command. Vincent Guerin’s steal and dish-off to Pelletier went for a 3-point play. Pelletier pulled down an offensive rebound and found Hampton for a 3-pointer. And Kalin Sou converted a fast break layup just before the first-quarter buzzer.
Sou started the second quarter with an assist on Guerin’s 3-pointer, and Dylan Drew completed the five-minute Raider explosion with an offensive put back to make it 24-9.
Hampton connected once more from beyond the arc and Morrill hit from downtown twice as the Raiders shot 8-of-15 from the floor in the second quarter and took a 42-25 lead into the locker room.
Connecting from deep was nothing new for Lebanon against the Pride. The Raiders sank 13 3-pointers (nine by Hampton) in Lebanon’s 65-41 home win over MV on Feb. 25. It’s an approach the Raiders don’t mind employing.
“We are what we are, and that’s how we play,” Matte said. “We’re not a very big team. We’re not un-athletic, but we’re not supremely athletic either. We just have a lot of guys who can shoot. When you have a hammer, swing it.”
Sou drained another 3 and Morrill drove for a layup to give the Raiders a 20-point lead early in the third quarter, just before Morrill and Williams received double technicals after being entangled in the open floor and then going chest-to-chest.
After Morrill went to the bench, Merrimack Valley promptly went on a 14-4 run. Pride senior guard Joey Brochu (19 points) scored eight during the spurt, including a 3-point play on a drive through the lane and a 3-pointer at the third quarter buzzer. A pair of free throws from Dylan Baer (11 points) pulled the Pride within 55-44 at the start of the fourth.
The Raiders made enough plays, however, to keep Merrimack Valley at bay. Pelletier had three offensive rebounds in the third quarter, forced a number of turnovers with pressure and had a chance for a 3-point play when he scored the last two of his career-high nine points on a scrappy layup.
“When we get guys like Austin Pelletier stepping up and making hustle plays ... that’s huge for us in the playoffs,” said Hampton.
The fourth quarter was a free-throw fest, with both teams in bonus foul trouble. Lebanon shot 14-of-20 from the line while Merrimack Valley was 9-of-10, helping the Pride stay within striking distance.
Andrew Alicia scored 11 of his 18 points in the fourth as MV cut the lead to 11 on six different occasions. He scored eight straight Pride points as the visitors finally got it back to single digits, 67-58, with 1:30 to play.
Whaley went 2-for-2 from the line, Pelletier found Sou for an fast break layup and Hampton went 2-for-2 from the stripe to ice it.
Free Throws: Life-sized cutout photos of Lebanon seniors Dylan Cox, Hampton, Guerin, and Drew decorated the walls of the gym. ... Despite a significant size advantage, the Pride held only a 23-22 rebounding advantage. ... The Raiders had just seven turnovers; MV had 15. ... Lebanon had a 17-point lead on four occasions in the first half. ... Lebanon beat Bishop Brady 60-37 at home on Jan. 11 before a much closer affair in Concord two weeks ago. The Raiders went without a point in the fourth quarter in that game until Sou’s 3-pointer with a minute to play allowed them to escape with a 49-48 decision.
Jared Pendak can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3306.