Senior delivers intangibles for Lebanon High hoops team

  • From left, Blake Boardman, Gerad Thornton, Chase Adams, Chris Perriello and Krists Putans acknowledge a Lebanon teammate's three-pointer early in their game against Kennett in Lebanon, N.H., on Dec. 17, 2021. Despite Boardman's lack of playing time, he gets very invested in the team. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • As Lebanon's cheerleaders wrap up the banner the starters crashed through, Blake Boardman (24) and his other teammates run onto the floor for warmups before their game against Kennett on Dec. 17, 2021. Boardman, who is a senior, is a team leader and hopes to attend the Naval Academy after graduation. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

  • Lebanon senior Blake Boardman pulls down a rebound while warming up with the team before their game against Kennett in Lebanon, N.H., on Dec. 17, 2021. While Boardman, who is a senior, does not get much playing time, coach Kieth Matte said he's a good presence to have around the team. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 12/21/2021 8:23:19 AM
Modified: 12/21/2021 8:23:04 AM

LEBANON — When Lebanon High head boys basketball coach Kieth Matte met with his players to discuss their roles on the team for this season, he didn’t have to say anything to senior Blake Boardman.

During the same meeting before the 2020-21 season, the longtime Raiders coach made it clear Boardman would be a reserve and wouldn’t see much action during games. And, Matte added, the situation was unlikely to change for his senior year. Boardman had mixed emotions. He would’ve rather heard that he’d get playing time, but he was also excited to simply make the team.

That meeting was a formality before this season.

“This year, I call kids in and tell them what their roles are going to be. (Blake and I) just smiled at each other,” Matte said. “I don’t think we even had that conversation.”

Even without playing heavy minutes — Boardman checked in during four games as a junior, all at the end of lopsided victories — the 6-foot-2-inch forward has become a valuable member of Lebanon’s team.

He works hard in practice, but often in different ways than his teammates. Boardman organizes the second team based on the upcoming opponent to help the coaching staff with game preparation. He plays in practice with his peers — that was his main duty as a junior. Matte initially kept Boardman on the roster because he’s a good leader and role model to have around. Matte grew to trust him the more he got to know him. He discovered Boardman’s intelligence, both in general and about basketball specifically.

“He came out (for the team) as a junior. I was like, ‘I’m not cutting anybody during COVID. We’re gonna take this kid. I just hope he doesn’t get hurt,’ ” Matte said. “And then he was just awesome all year. And he’s actually improved so much as a basketball player. Halfway through his junior year, I was like, ‘Wow, this kid has value.’ And now, I don’t know what I’d do without him.”

It’s not a role that many high schoolers could handle. And it’s not easy for Boardman. One of his biggest motivators in life is that he enjoys being really good at things. And, by nature, this role is for a player who isn’t as good as his peers.

But he takes pride in his duties. He knows the Raiders are full of talent — they finished 2020-21 undefeated and brought home an NHIAA Division II championship — and he knows he’s doing his part to help them be even better.

“Every single player out there is a fantastic player. Scores points, does all the right things on the court, dribbles fancily. I can’t dribble very fancily,” Boardman said. “I know that even though I’m not the best player out there, I work really hard. I don’t sweat a lot, so it might not look like I’m working hard. But I work my butt off. I know I’m contributing to the team.”

Boardman is angling to attend a military service academy, with a particular interest in the Naval Academy. He’s written application essays about his role on the basketball team.

The military has always been part of Boardman’s life. His father, Casey, was in the U.S. Marine Corps when Blake was in kindergarten. He served as a second lieutenant for around a year, and then pivoted to the Army as a Special Forces combat medic. Blake grew up in military communities, and it influenced him to go after that path for himself.

He’s cleared multiple hurdles in the application process. “If they get better people than Blake Boardman, good for them,” Matte said of Annapolis.

But even if that doesn’t work out, he knows what he wants to do: fly planes for the Marines.

“Even if it wasn’t the academy specifically, I always intended on becoming a service member,” Boardman said. “Airplanes fly really fast, and fighter jets appeal to me. It’s cool. All the factors line up and point in some particular direction — which might change, I might end up doing something else and going to a conventional college. We’ll see how this goes.”

Because of his father’s service, Boardman didn’t move to Lebanon until he was in 7th grade. His Raider teammates aren’t a group he’s grown up with. His role on the team is driven by a genuine love for basketball.

That said, he fits in well with the group. His teammates love him. But not enough to adapt the group chat for Boardman.

The team group chat is on Snapchat, which Boardman doesn’t have. They do their best to get important messages to him in other ways. But there have been some lapses.

He often misses out when the rest of the team dresses up at school on game days. One time, as a junior, Boardman didn’t get the memo that a 6 a.m. practice before school was canceled because of a snowstorm. So he showed up anyway, only to discover the update the hard way. The incident turned into a running joke among the team about Boardman’s dedication.

Raiders senior C.J. Childs said Boardman has a good attitude about the communication mishaps and about his role on the team.

“We all love Blake,” Childs said. “Smart kid. He’s an overall great person. He’s one of my friends. We’re always cheering for Blake (to get in the game). When he’s on the court, it’s always the best game.”

Boardman warms up with his teammates before games, but he’s left to cheer them on during the contests. He’s very active in doing so.

He said that his goal last season was to draw a technical foul on the bench for being too rowdy. Though Matte made his thoughts clear on that idea.

“It didn’t happen. And it’s not going to happen,” Boardman said. “Because Coach pulled me aside and said ‘Blake, if you get a technical on the bench, I’ll personally call the Naval Academy and I will screw up your application so you’ll never go there.’”

Boardman’s high school basketball experience is different than his peers’ has been. While he works toward eventually, hopefully, getting real playing time, he knows that’s unlikely to happen. But he’s turned that negative into a positive by making his teammates as good as they can be.

But the things Boardman will take away from his time playing for the Raiders is similar to what many other players will feel.

“It’s just the relationships that I’ve built. I’m an introvert. I don’t go out of my way to make friends. But being on a team is kind of de facto friends,” Boardman said. “It’s taught me camaraderie. There’s just a lot of experiences.”

Seth Tow can be reached at stow@vnews.com.




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