By Tris Wykes
LEBANON – How would the Lebanon High boys basketball team fare while taking a step up in competition Friday? The NHIAA Division II Raiders left little doubt from the outset, jumping to an early lead and fighting off Division I Keene down the stretch for a 52-41 victory. Lebanon, which opened the season with three consecutive victories over Division III Mascoma, improved to 4-0 while the Blackbirds fell to 1-1.
“We were flat and they hit shots early,” said Keene coach Kevin Ritter. “We had a few untimely turnovers and missed shots and we were never able to flip the momentum back entirely.”
Said Lebanon coach Kieth Matte: “It got a little heater-skelter in the third quarter and (Keene) did a good job after we blitzed them early. They wore us down as the game went along. I’ve got to play more guys.”
Raiders starting guard C.J. Childs should be back next week. The senior is nursing a sprained ankle. For much of Friday’s contest, however, Lebanon looked strong without him. The hosts led, 13-6, during the first quarter and 25-9 during the second stanza before holding a 32-14 halftime advantage.
“We knew what to expect in terms of their (defensive) pressure,” Matte said. “They were physical and rough and hand-checked us, which is what you should do against us.”
Jack Stone had 15 points for Lebanon, which also received 11 from Calvin Bates, 9 from Braeden Falzarano and 6 each from Nyeoti Punni and Karsten Hansen. Guard Logan Sanchez and post man Cameron Davio contributed valuable minutes off the bench and Matte said he needs to play them more.
Lebanon led, 40-26, after three quarters and 49-41 with 90 seconds to play. Keene made several second-half runs but could never accumulate quite enough consecutive baskets or consistently hold the Raiders off the scoreboard.
“They’ve got really good overall size and athleticism and can shoot from from all over the floor,” said Ritter, whose team was led in scoring by Nick Maiella, who had 16 points.
Lebanon next plays Monday against visiting Kearsarge. It will be Senior Night for the Raiders and the start of the school again allowing fans into games. Each home player will be allowed to have two spectators attend.
Notes: Lebanon assistant coach K.J. Matte, the coach’s college-aged son, departed after the game for his part-time job delivering food by car for a national company… Ritter said he and most of his players were well aware of Lebanon’s talent, having scrimmaged the Raiders before each of the previous seasons… Lebanon has hired Cole Flannery as its new boys lacrosse coach. The Norwich attorney and Vermont Law School graduate coached Sharon Academy’s team in 2011 and was a Raiders assistant two seasons ago.
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