By Tris Wykes
LEBANON – Miss enough easy shot attempts and a basketball team will soon find itself in difficult circumstances. That was the scene Tuesday for the Hanover High girls, who hung on for a 29-28 victory over arch-rival Lebanon. It was a clash some observers thought the visitors might dominate.
Melissa Whitmore’s 3-point bucket from atop the key with 2 minutes, 53 seconds was the last successful field goal between the NHIAA Division II teams, putting the Marauders up, 29-26.
Lebanon’s Clara Smyrski hit two free throws to close the scoring with 1:41 remaining. Catherine Cole, who led the Raiders with 18 points, missed a 3-point shot shortly before Smyrski’s points and another not long after.
The hosts’ Molly Smith went to the line with a 1-and-1 chance and 14 seconds on the clock, but missed the initial attempt. The ball caromed out of bounds and was inbounded to Hanover’s Whitmore, who was fouled and received her own 1-and-1 chance. She also failed to convert the front end.
Lebanon inbounded from under its basket with 12 seconds to go and Cole took two shots during the final seconds. The junior rebounded her own miss on the first attempt and had her second try blocked by the 6-foot-1 Whitmore to the left of the hoop just before time expired.
“Lebanon, I thought, outhustled us and played with confidence and intensity,” said 20th-year Hanover coach Dan O’Rourke, whose 21-2 team was upset by the Raiders in last year’s state semifinals. “They pushed us to the limit, but in the third and fourth quarter we stepped up our defensive intensity, especially our rebounding.”
Jane Lackley, a junior center and a transfer from Woodstock, led Hanover with 12 points and Whitmore had 10. Galanes was held to 4 points after pumping in a combined 41 during her previous two games. Lebanon’s second-leading scorer was Smyrski with 5.
Hanover’s Charlotte Johnson said she expected her 12-0 team to come out as usual – hard and fast with crisp execution. Instead, the Marauders were in for yet another long night against their neighboring foes. Led by inspirational forward Sally Rainey, the Raiders were perhaps more fired up but not as deep.
“Lebanon-Hanover game always have nerves and scariness,” Johnson said. “We could tell in the first 10 minutes that we were shaken up a bit and scared to put the ball into the net. Sally’s amazing and she really knows how to keep up their energy, even when they’re trailing.”
Rainey had only 3 points but first-year Lebanon coach Emily Kehoe said the vocal senior might have had the biggest impact of any player on the floor. There was an almost palpable sense that Rainey refused to let her teammates fold. Late in the game, she dove over the baseline after a loose ball and crashed her head and shoulder into the cinderblock wall.
“She didn’t score much but she changes everyone’s attitude when they’re down,” Kehoe said. “You can’t ask for a better kid.”
Johnson said that while Hanover staggered during the first half, its players responded after intermission, when the Marauders led, 18-17.
“We really picked it up on help defense because they brought it to us and were all over us with rebounds in the first half,” Johnson said. “Even though we have better height, they were still getting all the rebounds and that really pushed us to work harder.”
Hanover could put the game away a bit earlier. Amina Ajwang sent a pass to an unguarded Stella Galanes under the hoop with 1:10 remaining but the sophomore somehow couldn’t convert.
“How many layups did we miss? I bet we missed 10 at least,” O’Rourke said. “Lebanon’s defense was very good. They played an extended, matchup 2-3 (zone defense) and we didn’t come out when the bell rang. But as I told (the players), it’s over and move on.”
Said Johnson: “We play them again Friday and that’s when we’ll show them what we actually can do. Today was just a fluke.”
Notes: Sally Rainey and her younger sister, Mary, kneeled during the national anthem, the only players to do so… Emily Kehoe said her father, Tim, formerly the Raiders’ longtime coach, had told her his nerves wouldn’t be able to handle watching Tuesday’s game online in real time… The Raiders, 20-4 last winter, won their first eight games this season but have lost their last two. The first setback was a 10-point defeat at Fall Mountain, a team Hanover beat twice by a combined 37 points.
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