By Tris Wykes
WEST CANAAN – The Mascoma High boys basketball team produced the fast start it wanted Friday but couldn’t finish the job in a 47-43 loss to Lebanon. That the contest was the closest of the neighbors’ three clashes within 11 days of little immediate consolation to the hosts.
“The guys are pretty down after that one,” said Royals coach Silas Ayres, whose NHIAA Division III squad scored the game’s first nine points but surrendered seven of the final nine. “I thought we had them on the run. We did have them.
“That’s a Division II final four team all day long and we were within one possession of them the last two games. We can play with anybody in our division if we have the same intensity we did tonight.”
Mascoma standout Ben Seiler led all scorers with 22 points and teammate Gabe Rock had 8. Lebanon’s Calvin Bates had 16 points and Karsten Hansen had 13. Braeden Falzano added 10 and the Raiders improved to 3-0 while dropping the Royals to 1-4.
“We learned a lot about ourselves tonight and I’m glad (Mascoma) played well early and put us in a hole,” said Lebanon coach Keith Matte. “We had to grind to win and it was good for us.”
Mascoma led, 15-7, after a quarter but fell into a 19-19 halftime tie. Lebanon showed not a hint of frustration, refusing to bicker and become agitated as many teams would in such a situation.
“We got good looks early but the ball didn’t fall,” Matte said. “When that happens, you can’t change anything else about how you play. Eventually, during the course of the game, good shooters will hit their shots and it all evens out.”
Said Ayres: “We threw it all at them from the start, and we jumped on them. But they didn’t get rattled and they chipped away and you knew they were going to make a run. They wore us down a little.”
Fatigue lessen the Royals’ adherence to their defensive game plan. A slow step here, the failure to grab a rebound there, and Lebanon gradually wrested momentum away.
“They exerted so much energy that eventually, they had to take a little break,” said Lebanon forward Jack Stone, who had only six points but played sound defense on Seiler and was notable on the boards. “We’ve been practicing breaking (defensive) pressure, because every time they went to that in the first couple of games it hurt us.”
The Royals led, 34-33, after three quarters but slumped as the final stanza unfolded. Hansen sank a 3-point bucket with 3 minutes, 30 seconds remaining to put his team up, 43-41. Mascoma’s next four possessions produced two missed shots and two offensive fouls.
Meanwhile, Lebanon received two free throws from Bates and two more from Falzarano and pushed its advantage to 46-41 with 1:10 to go. Mascoma pulled within 46-43 with 30 seconds on the clock, then got the ball back when Falzarano couldn’t inbound within the allotted five seconds.
The Royals’ final pass was intended for Seiler but was intercepted by Hansen with five seconds left. He was fouled and made one of his two free throws to conclude the night’s scoring.
“I should have called time out during that last possession but I thought maybe if we just went to the hoop, we’d get a cheap one,” Ayres lamented. “We had a seven-guy rotation and they played hard from the start. They gave it all they had, but at the end we weren’t making the good decisions we were in the beginning.”
Lebanon is scheduled to visit Keene on Tuesday and Mascoma is slated to host Stevens the same night.
Notes: Lebanon won the teams’ first meeting, 66-51, and its second, 56-50… Stone said games the lack of fans at games this season reminds him of AAU contests… Lebanon is without junior guard C.J. Childs, who is recovering from an ankle sprain. It’s hoped he’ll be back late next week. Friday, he acted as something of a student manager, passing out water and masks. “When a kid like C.J. doesn’t make flashy moves with the ball, he’s underrated,” Matte said. “But we need guys like him who can guard and set hard screens and get on the floor after loose balls.”… The Raiders’ actual manager, senior Jake Hibner, has added Indiana, Virginia Tech and Purdue to his list of college admittances. He’s also in at Michigan State and is waiting to hear on Wisconsin, rated as the nation’s top party school by the Princeton Review in 2017.
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