This championship was 9 years in the making. Moriah Morton and Emily Kehoe have worked so hard for this over the years, and now they did it - an undefeated championship season in their senior year as the Raiders defeat Portsmouth 48-41 in the 2012-2013 Division II title game. After all these years playing together, and being coached by Tim Kehoe (Emily's father) they go out as champions.
"It's unbelievable" said Emily Kehoe, who had a game-high 20 points to go with 6 steals and 5 rebounds. "It's something that me, him and Moriah have always talked about. I wasn't nervous. We came in and we knew what we had to."
"Now everything we have worked for since 4th grade has amounted to something" said Morton, who had to sit for 11 minutes in the 2nd half with 4 fouls but still had 8 points, 7 rebounds, 6 steals, 4 assists and 1 block. "It was hard to have to sit, but they kept the lead when I was out. As long as we win is all that matters."
"This is a program win" said Coach Kehoe. "I got 32 texts from past players wishing us luck. This is for all of the players from the past 6 years. Sara Romano worked so hard and did everything she could to win a championship. I wish I could give her one of these medals. Each of those other years luck wasn't on our side, whether we had injuries or sickness. But this year was special."
Never before has a team worked so hard for something, come up just short of a title 3 years in a row only to finally win it as seniors. Lebanon was simply a team on a mission this year. Despite the fact that 2 projected starters decided not to come out for the team they still went undefeated and won the championship. In the regular season they went 18-0 and won every game by 23 points or more. In the semi-finals Milford gave it everything they had and proved a worthy foe, but Lebanon prevailed by 15.
In the finals Portsmouth also gave it everything they had, and they gave Lebanon an even tougher game. Although the Clippers never led, they were right in the game the whole 2nd half, even cutting the lead to just 2 a couple of times. After Lebanon dominated early and led 19-5 after 1 quarter, Portsmouth made a terrific comeback in the 2nd quarter, outscoring the Raiders 19-9 to cut the lead to 28-24 at the half.
"We got a run early, but then we got crazy on our traps and started over-rotating. I don't think a team scored 19 points in a quarter on us all year. They usually only score around 27 for the whole game."
Early in the game Lebanon was doing what they do best - getting steals with their press and turning them into layups. Morton and Kehoe had 6 steals and junior guard Samantha MacDonald had 5 - I don't know if I've ever seen a high school game where 3 different players on the same team had 5 steals in the same game, very impressive stuff.
But the tides turned in the 2nd quarter. Not only was Portsmouth now breaking the press, but they were scoring off it, particularly Abby Salvadore, who had 9 points in the 2nd quarter.
"We knew what they were going to do, but couldn't duplicate their quickness in practice, so we had to make a lot of adjustments" said Portsmouth head coach Dan Parr. "We changed our press offense 3 times during the game, then we found one that worked. We also switched from the zone to man-to-man which helped."
Lebanon was hitting on all cylinders early, especially Kehoe who had 7 quick points in the first 3 minutes of the game as the Raiders jumped out to a 15-3 lead. Kehoe sliced through the Clippers defense for a smooth finish inside, Morton had a some great steals and was making some good dishes to Kehoe and MacDonald to set them up for layups. Forwards Vanessa Fleury and Heather King also hit mid-range jumpers, as all 5 starters scored and setting each other up. It was all set up by the Raiders' intense pressure defense. You could tell they really wanted this win badly.
Give Portsmouth credit for battling back - they should a lot of heart. Salvadore, Christina Jones, Devon Parker, Tighe Loche and Alicia Brown all hit key shots and worked together as a team to give Lebanon all they could handle. They have nothing to hang their heads for. They played Lebanon tougher than anyone else did all year.
"We just stayed together and stayed positive" said King. "It's an amazing feeling."
Things really got tense when Morton picked up for fourth foul with 5:49 left in the 3rd quarter. Kehoe stepped up though with Morton on the bench, with a couple of tough drives to get to the free throw line. King also started looking for her shot more, and had some bkey buckets in the 2nd half as well. Lebanon pushed their lead to 34027, but then Brown made a big put-back off a miss by Parker to cut the lead to 35-31 with 1:50 left in the 3rd quarter. King answered back with a strong drive and finish.
Portsmouth just couldn't find enough offense in the 4th quarter, as they scored just 8 points in the final frame. Morton came back in the game with 5:10 left to play, and Lebanon got their second wing and played even harder. They were getting all of the rebounds and loose balls down the stretch. They didn't turn the ball over and hit enough of their FT's late to hold on for the hard fought 48-41 win.