2 of the top teams in Division II went at it on Sunday afternoon in Concord, as Bishop Brady led by as many as 24 (50-26 in 3rd quarter). Lebanon made a resilient comeback, cutting the lead to just 6 in the 4th quarter. Brady was able to hold on for the 62-52 win, to improve to 12-2 (15-2 overall) on the season. All 5 Giants starts scored 9 points or more, led by senior point guard Jourdain Bell with a team-high 20. Sophomore point guard KJ Matte dropped a game-high 23 for Lebanon.
Coming in, Lebanon had scored 58 points or more in 8 of their 11 games. However, Brady played tough, hard nosed man-to-man defense. They held the Raiders to just 24 points in the 1st half and only 33 points through 3 quarters.
"It all starts on defense for us" said Bishop Brady first-year head coach Cole Etten. "KJ is a great shooter, so we wanted to close out on him and their other shooters."
Brady was doing a nice job defensively of pressuring people and denying dribble penetration. With Lebanon unable to get to the rim they were forced to hoist up a ton of jumpers. The Raiders shot just 3/13 from downtown in the 1st half.
"We're not very big so we need to shoot better" said Lebanon head coach Kieth Matte, father of KJ. "We lacked offensive discipline in the 1st half."
Jourdain Bell led his team in scoring but he also made the game's biggest defensive play. Lebanon sophomore guard Ryan Milliken made a steal and raced up the floor for what looked like may turn into an easy transition layup - not so fast. Bell sprinted back on 'D', and as Milliken attempted to lay the ball in the basket Bell leaped high up in the air, and with his hand above the rim he swatted the ball away. The standing room only crowd cheered on the great effort and athletic ability by they just witnessed.
"It was one of those moments all players want" said Bell, the reigning D-II Player of the Year. I was sizing him up, and was hoping he wasn't going to fake me out. I get a lot of my defense from Joe" (Joe Bell, his brother).
That block came during a stretch of the 2nd quarter when Jourdain Bell really started to take over. Brady was only up by 3 (16-13) after 1, but that lead quickly increased in the 2nd. Sophomore guard Matt Quirk (10 points) hit a 3 and junior forward Aaron Svendsen (12 points and 11 rebounds) connected on a 15-footer. Then Bell drove to the rim for an and-1 to make it 26-17 Brady with 5:00 left in the 1st half. Lebanon junior wing Austin Whaley (9 points) slashed to the bucket for a score. Then it was Jourdain Bell again, making a nice up-fake to get his defender in the air before draining a jumper from the elbow. That's when Bell made his highlight reel block. After a layup by Quirk, the Giants had their first double digit lead, 30-19. Matte answered right back though, hitting his second 3-pointer of the contest. On the other end of the floor Bell drove to the rim for an athletic and-1 finish. Brady continued to attack the rim, while Lebanon was taking outside shots which for the most part weren't falling. Brady went up 38-22, their largest lead of the 1st half. At halftime they led 38-24.
Brady continued to roll in the 3rd quarter. Joe Bell hit a off the catch to make it 41-24 Giants. Junior forward Jake Hansen made a strong take and finish for Lebanon, but then Jourdain Bell hit a fadeaway 3 from the right wing and it was 44-26 Brady. Then on the fast-break Svendsen took it in for an easy layup. Whaley was right there, and could have tried to take a charge on that play but backed away instead. Brady continued to be quicker to loose balls and rebounds. Then Whaley redeemed himself, as Brady senior guard Brendan Johnson went hard to the rim on the break. This time Whaley stepped in and took the charge.
Brady got a steal, and Jourdain Bell went in for the easy layup as the Giants now had their biggest lead of the game, 50-26.
That's when the Raiders' comeback started, as they exploded for a 22-4 run. Whaley made a nice steal and pushed it hard up the floor. Jourdain Bell was there waiting to try and take the charge. But Whaley made a nice move by going around Bell rather than through him, and then made the layup. Svendsen took a charge on a Whaley drive, and it was 50-33 Bishop Brady.
Lebanon's comeback continued in the 4th quarter, as Matte really heated up shooting the basketball. He drilled a off the bounce to cut the lead to 50-38. Hansen took a charge, and then Matte hit another 3 - this one off the catch from the right wing. Just like that the Brady lead was back to single digits, 50-41 with 5:11 left in the 4th quarter. It was Matte's fourth 3 of the game.
Whaley made a tough drive and finish over the 6-foot-6 Svendsen. Then Matte hit a step-back jumper, fading away from 15 feet. That cut the Giants' lead to 52-45 with 4:00 left in regulation. Then it was Matte again, with a killer crossover dribble, hitting a leaner and-1 to make it 54-48 Brady with 3:00 left. Did we mention Matte is only a sophomore?
"I think they started playing harder, got more confidence and made more shots" said Jourdain Bell.
Johnson drove into the lane for a floater to push the lead back to 8, but Milliken cut the lead back down to 6 on the other end with a floater of his own. It was 56-50 Brady with 2:05 left in the 4th quarter.
Then came a tough break for Lebanon. Jourdain Bell should have been called for a 5 second closely guarded violation (8 seconds went off the clock with him dribbling in place). Instead of making the right call the officials awarded Brady a timeout instead. Out of the timeout Joe Bell (11 points) sailed in for a layup and the Giants hold on for the 62-52 win.
"I'm proud of the way we didn't give up" said Coach Matte. "We had a similar game with them last year. We were down big then too and came back, then lost in double-overtime."
Speaking of tough calls for Lebanon, another one took place right right in the opening seconds. After gaining control of the opening tip, and advancing past half court, they threw the ball into the back court. It was clearly a back court violation but wasn't called. The Giants scored on that possession too, as Joe Bell drove baseline for 2.
Then the points started coming at a rapid rate. Matte made a nice pass from up top to Hansen for a layup. Quirk hit a 3 on the other end, and then Matte countered with a 3 just seconds later. Then Jourdain Bell hit an 18-footer off the dribble. Lebanon took the lead 10-9 on a 3 by Milliken (8 points).
Lebanon had some trouble in the 1st half of limiting Brady to 1 shot. One one possession they even got 3 shot attempts, with Svendsen converted a put-back to put Brady back on top 11-10 with 3:20 left in the 1st quarter. Then Jourdain Bell made a nice crossover before hitting a step-back jumper from 15 feet. Both point guards put on a show all game, as Matte answered with a nice move - using a shot fake to create space before hitting a pull-up 15-footer from the baseline.
Bishop Brady now gets some time to rest. Their next game isn't until February 24 when they take on unbeaten Portsmouth in a battle of the 2 favorites in D-II. Coaches and players from Portsmouth were in the house for Sunday's game vs. Lebanon to scout Brady.
Lebanon meanwhile has a big match up with Manchester West. West is on an 11 game winning streak. Lebanon and Brady have a rematch on March 3 in Lebanon.
Sunday's game between Brady and Lebanon was part of the Frank Monahan Foundation Basketball Showcase. There was 2 prep school games also played as part of the event, and all process went to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Concord and the James Ceriello Scholarship.