Souhegan ends Raiders’ reign

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 2/15/2022 11:56:34 PM
Modified: 2/15/2022 11:54:40 PM

DURHAM, N.H. — The Lebanon High boys basketball team’s season ended Tuesday night with a taste of its own medicine.

The defending state champion Raiders, the No. 4 seed in the NHIAA Division II playoffs, hang their hat on getting to the rim on offense and defending the glass on defense. Their games are usually physical, and Tuesday’s semifinal against top-seeded Souhegan was no different.

But this time it was the Sabers who controlled the paint and dominated the boards. Souhegan avenged its only loss of the season, which game at home against Lebanon on Jan. 24, and eliminated the Raiders from postseason play, 41-32.

“They did to us what we do to other teams,” Lebanon head coach Kieth Matte said. “They just physically beat us. We couldn’t keep them off the glass; we couldn’t get to the rim ourselves.”

The game was a defensive battle from tip to buzzer, with no scoring until past the halfway point of the first quarter. The Raiders (17-4) led, 7-3, after a quarter, and the Sabers’ offensive production seemed to be further hampered when 6-foot-7 post player John McBride picked up his third foul early in the second.

But if anything, Souhegan looked better with McBride on the bench. Point guard Joe Bernasconi put on a ball-handling clinic on a night when almost everyone else on the court struggled to hang onto the ball, and Matt Canavan, who missed the Sabers’ regular-season loss to Lebanon, scored six points in quick succession to help give his team a three-point lead at halftime.

Souhegan also scored the first six points of the third quarter to take its largest lead, and the fouls quickly began to pile up for the Raiders. The Sabers were in the bonus before the third quarter ended, and four Lebanon starters finished with at least four fouls.

“We knew we could throw out the first meeting,” Matte said. “When we send a team to the line that often because we’re out of position, we’re going to lose.”

Souhegan attempted 21 free throws in all, making 13, while the Raiders were just 4-of-10 from the charity stripe. Twelve of the Sabers’ 16 fourth-quarter points came at the foul line, and they won despite not making a single 3-pointer all game.

For Lebanon, senior guard Braeden Falzarano hit a couple of big shots from distance to keep his team close, and senior forward Jackson Stone tried to will the Raiders to victory in the fourth, scoring nine of their 13 points in the final period. He made a 3-pointer with 1:30 left that cut the deficit to 33-30, but Souhegan made three separate trips to the free-throw line before Lebanon got the ball back because of the Raiders’ inability to crash the boards.

Stone finished with 13 points in his final high school game, played just a mile and a half from his future home at the University of New Hampshire. Falzarano finished with 12. For the Sabers, Bernasconi led all scorers with 15 points.

It’s the end of the line for an accomplished Lebanon senior class which won the state title with an undefeated record last season and went 63-16 over four years.

“They had an incredible run,” Matte said. “We’re disappointed, because we have high expectations, but they motivate the underclassmen. They’re an unbelievable bunch.

“Tonight, we came up short against another team that’s pretty damn good, but they’ve set the bar very high for next year, and I don’t want to take for granted their success.”

Benjamin Rosenberg can be reached at or 603-727-3302.

Sign up for our free email updates
Valley News Daily Headlines
Valley News Contests and Promotions
Valley News Extra Time
Valley News Breaking News

Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784


© 2021 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy