Clippers End Raiders’ Run
Portsmouth Stops Cold-Shooting Lebanon in Semifinal
Lebanon's Martin Gradijan scores two over the top of Portsmouth's Shon Parnham during the second quarter of Lebanon at Portsmouth boys basketball semifinals at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H., on March 14, 2014. Portsmouth won, 49-43. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon's John Cioffredi scrambles for a loose ball with Portsmouth's Loden Formichelli in the second quarter of Lebanon at Portsmouth boys basketball semifinals at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H., on March 14, 2014. Portsmouth won, 49-43. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon's Dom Morrill directs his frustration toward one of the referees after the final buzzer during Lebanon at Portsmouth boys basketball semifinals at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H., on March 14, 2014. Portsmouth won, 49-43. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Lebanon fans react to an unfavorable call during Lebanon at Portsmouth boys basketball semifinals at Exeter High School in Exeter, N.H., on March 14, 2014. Portsmouth won, 49-43, after trailing Lebanon for much of the game. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »
Exeter, n.h. — Excellent shooting had carried the Lebanon High boys basketball team this season, its most successful in 15 years. In Friday night’s 49-43 loss to Portsmouth in the NHIAA Division II semifinals, those sharpshooting ways ended along with their season.
In a game postponed twice because of weather and moved from the University of New Hampshire to Exeter High School because of a scheduling conflict, the second-ranked Clippers (19-2 league) prevailed to advance to their fifth championship game appearance in eight years. They’ll take on top-ranked defending champion Pembroke in today’s title game at UNH’s Lundholm Gymnasium.
Third-seeded Lebanon (18-5 overall 17-4 league) had its most wins since 1999, but failed to make the title game for the first time since winning the Class I crown in ’98.
Scoring 25 points below its season average, Lebanon shot just 30.8 percent from the field (16-of-52) and 9-for-16 from the free-throw line.
Portsmouth (10-for-40) was even worse from the floor, but hit two-thirds of its free throws (26-for-39) as the Raiders went into foul trouble almost immediately.
Senior Dominick Morrill (team-high 11 points) was called for two personal fouls in the first 16 seconds, and four Lebanon players had at least four personals during the game.
“It was a very physical game,” said Lebanon coach Kieth Matte. “That was the case for both teams, but (Portsmouth) got to the line 23 more times than we did. It’s hard to work with that.”
Donovan Phanor scored 12 points and front-court brothers Joey and Pat Glynn each had 10 for the Clippers, who jumped out to an 11-0 lead before trailing by as many as eight.
Lebanon — which had limited practice time this week because of snowstorms Wednesday and Thursday — didn’t get its first points of the game until the 1:35 mark of the first quarter.
“I think some of it was nerves. We were a little jazzed up and a little jumpy,” Matte said. “Missing the practices didn’t help. To play the game 100 miles per hour, you have to practice 100 miles per hour, and we haven’t done that since Tuesday.”
With Portsmouth point guard Nick Mackey on the bench in foul trouble for much of the second quarter, Lebanon finally found a rhythm as six players scored during a 14-2 rally for its first lead. Martin Gradijan (seven points) scored on a third chance, Gage Young drove for two and Morrill hit a jumper to put Lebanon ahead 14-13.
After Portsmouth went back ahead by a point, Lebanon went on a 10-3 run over the final 3:20 of the half to take a 24-18 lead at the break.
Gradijan had a steal and layup, freshman KJ Matte sank his only shot of the game and Nic Shepherd stuffed in a putback as the Raiders took control.
“We started getting some more second-chance points,” Lebanon co-captain Kalin Sou said. “(Portsmouth) was collapsing on us on the offensive boards and we were able to get away from them and get some put backs.”
The Raiders shot just 3-for-13 from the field in the third quarter, missing an array of open looks. The Clippers also shot poorly in the period (2-for-11), but stayed within striking distance by going 6-for-8 from the line.
Lebanon led 33-29 after three.
“We missed a lot of 3s, a lot of shots we normally make when we have good looks, because we have pretty good shooters,” Kieth Matte said. “We had a lot of opportunities to stretch the lead in the third quarter, and we just didn’t make shots.”
Mackey drained a 3 on a swing pass from Pat Glynn as part of Portsmouth’s 7-2 run to start the fourth quarter, putting the Clippers on top 37-35. The lead went on to change five times in 60 seconds, a Phanor free throw putting Portsmouth ahead 42-40 with 2:45 remaining.
Lebanon missed on the other end, and Shepherd was issued a technical foul for animatedly disputing an out-of-bounds call with 2:04 to play.
Phanor made only one of two to keep it a one-possession game, but the Clippers went into a semi-stall to work the clock on the ensuing possession.
“We were looking for a back-door play, but we wanted to make sure it was going to be a good look,” Portsmouth coach Jimmy Mulvey said. “After we went up by five is when we stalled.”
Both teams turned it over before a pair of Pat Glynn free throws made it 45-40 with 36 seconds left, and Portsmouth hit 6-of-10 from the line overall in the final half-minute.
Free Throws: KJ Matte’s two points were a season low as the freshman led the team with 11.6 points per game. He was one of six Lebanon players who entered the game averaging seven points or better. Of the six, only Morrill (10.3) met or surpassed his average. ... Morrill was issued a technical with 1.2 seconds after a brief skirmish on the sideline following a teammate’s foul. ... It was the teams’ first meeting since the Clippers’ 44-32 win in Portsmouth in the first round in 2007. Then new to Class I, the Clippers went on to lose to Hanover in the title game that season. ... The Raiders held a 29-19 rebounding advantage, but had 22 turnovers to 17 for Portsmouth.
Jared Pendak can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3306.