By Tris Wykes

WEST CANAAN – Mascoma High boys basketball coach Silas Ayres was an unhappy man during parts of Tuesday’s clash with visiting Lebanon. Particularly during the first half, the Royals’ bench boss stamped his feet, pounded both hands on the floor and railed against the dying of his NHIAA Division III team’s hopes for victory. 

Twenty minutes after the Division II Raiders had walked into the cold, black night with a 66-51 triumph, Ayres had downshifted to disbelief and acceptance. 

“Amazing,” he said. “We couldn’t hit shots in our own gym.”

Lebanon High’s Braeden Falzarano dribbles around a pick set by C.J. Childs on Mascoma’s Isaac Rayno.

Mascoma standout Ben Seiler was limited to 16 points, 12 of them produced after intermission, when Lebanon led, 34-13. The junior entered midway through the first quarter. He dropped 18 and 23 points on Hanover last week when the teams split two games. 

“I really think we can compete with (Lebanon),” said Ayres, admitting his 1-2 team was at an athletic disadvantage. “It’s just a matter of making our shots. Just like the first game against Hanover, we got good shots and just missed them. We hit two, three, four more of those, like we normally did last year, then it’s a single-digit game in the second half.”

Lebanon (1-0) sent point guard C.J. Childs out for the opening tip with almost interchangeable parts Jack Stone, Braeden Falzarano, Calvin Bates and Karsten Hansen. Childs, a football linebacker, is the only starter under 6 feet, while the others are taller, agile types reminiscent of a fleet of college football receivers. 

Lebanon High’s Jack Stone is helped up by Calvin Bates (2) and Cole Fabry.

“We get outrebounded pretty much every game; we’re used to that,” Ayres said. “But they beat us to every loose ball and that’s one of our calling cards, what we need to do to be successful. We’ve got to take care of the ball and create turnovers. The second half was much better and credit to the kids for not packing it in.”

Said Lebanon coach Kieth Matte: “They’re a better team than they showed in the first half and we’re a better team than we showed in the first half.”

Falzarano led the visitors with 20 points. Bates had 14 and Childs 10. Stone chipped in 8 points and Hansen 3. Mascoma received 7 points each from Cole Moulton, Connor Thompson and Cooper Peavy.

Matte said his team tired as the game went on, not yet used to game pace while wearing masks.

Mascoma “scrapped the whole game and turned us over a bit in the second half,” Matte said. “I have to analyze the game critically, but I’m just so grateful these kids got to play again. Their last basketball memory is of last season being stopped by Covid and then their football season was stopped by Covid.”

Mascoma High’s Isaac Rayno maintains possession on the floor alongside Lebanon’s Zach Whitcomb.

Tuesday was the first varsity game action for Falzarano since offseason hip surgery and for Hansen since suffering a knee injury late last winter. 

“Karsten tweaked his ankle tonight but he came back and played,” Matte said. “Braeden was a monster. He’s at a different level than a lot of kids. Fourteen or 15 of his points came two feet from the basket by just being a good athlete.”

The lone Division II team on Lebanon’s schedule is Hanover. The Raiders are also slated to play Division I Keene, but the Blackbirds are currently in a Covid timeout. Stevens is another scheduled foe that’s sidelined at the moment. Kearsarge is also on the docket, but the Cougars’ athletic department is yet another dealing with sickness. 

Lebanon and Mascoma are scheduled for a rematch Friday at Lebanon.

Notes: Among the roughly 30 cardboard cutouts of fans “sitting” at midcourt were ones of actor Tom Selleck and former Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird… Dave Collins, formerly the radio voice of Dartmouth College basketball and Upper Valley Nighthawks baseball, among other gigs, called the game for an online streaming service… Lebanon football coach Chris Childs kept the scorebook for the visitors, while his Mascoma counterpart, Kyle Colburn, ran the scoreboard… Former Royals athlete Hawk Shawn worked the game as an emergency medical technician. He also works for a tree care company and attends online classes via Anna Maria College in Massachusetts. 

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Lebanon High’s Nyeoti Punni attempts a shot over Mascoma’s Isaac Rayno. The Royals’ Gabe Rock watches from the lane.