By Tris Wykes
LEBANON – Lebanon High and visiting Mascoma clashed in boys basketball Friday for the second time in four days. The Royals, dispatched by 15 points during the teams’ initial meeting, this time put up more of a fight, their late rally falling short during a 56-50 loss.
Mascoma trailed by 18 points early in the third quarter. However, the visitors pulled within 3 points with 2 minutes, 40 seconds remaining when Ben Seiler drained his third 3-point shot of the final stanza.
Lebanon went to the free-throw line 11 times the rest of the way, making only five such shots but aided when Seiler fouled out with 21 seconds remaining. The NHIAA Division III Royals (1-3) failed to score on their final four possessions.
“Our team is gritty and fights to the end, but we had a slow start,” said Seiler, who led all scorers with 27 points. “With the lead (Lebanon) had at halftime, they sat back a bit and felt they had us. I think we shocked them a little bit, but they closed it out pretty well.”
The Royals also received 9 points from Connor Thompson and 7 from Gabe Rock. Lebanon’s Calvin Bates had 15 points, Karsten Hansen had 10 and Jack Stone and Braeden Falzarano each had 9 for the Division II hosts, who improved to 2-0.
“Mascoma played better tonight and they’re a good team, so it wasn’t that surprising,” Lebanon coach Kieth Matte said of the visitors’ comeback. “We ran out of gas and they looked a little bit fitter.”
Lebanon scored 12 of the contest’s first 16 points, helped by eight Mascoma turnovers during the opening 4 1/2 minutes. The hosts led, 30-15, at halftime but that advantage slowly eroded and the Royals pulled within 48-45 with 3:15 to go.
“We’re trying to play fast but we don’t have anybody with a lot experience at point guard and they pressed the crap out of us,” Matte said. “That’s a (recipe) for turning it over. We scored 30 points playing that way in the first half and that should be enough, but in the second half we struggled and let them get easy baskets.”
Said Falzarano: “They went to the press and switched to a couple other defenses and we got out of control. I turned the ball over too many times and I think we got a little too comfortable with the lead.”
Falzarano committed half a dozen turnovers but had to dribble the ball more often after classmate C.J. Childs suffered a first-half ankle injury. The good news is that Falzarano, Stone, Hansen, Bates and Nyeoti Punni are all capable of bringing the ball up court. The bad news is that if you have five or six point guards, then you really don’t have a true one.
Losing Childs, who previously hurt that same ankle during football season, also meant Seiler shed his defensive shadow.
“C.J.’s a special athlete and if you hooked Ben to a lie detector, he’s probably tell you he’d rather see any other kid on him but C.J.,” Matte said.
The Lebanon coach was also impressed by Seiler’s supporting cast, however, lauding Zach Thompson for his drive-and-dish abilities.
“He’s a slippery fish, that kid,” the coach said. “It’s not just Ben, Ben, Ben, no matter how good he is. He draws fouls and there’s no way to really stop him, so you just have to make him work for it, which I think we did tonight.”
It was announced after the game that because of scheduling havoc created by Covid-19, the Royals will host the Raiders next Friday.
“Ever since we’ve been young, Hanover and Lebanon have pretty much dominated the Upper Valley,” said Seiler, whose team split two games with the Marauders earlier this month. “We’re just trying to make a name for ourselves.”
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