By: Tuesday and Friday
Portsmouth used a distinct rebounding advantage in the 2nd half of 22 to 12 and rode the young shoulders of freshman Cody Graham, who led Portsmouth with 18 points, to defeat Lebanon and move to a much anticipated State Title game with Bishop Brady this Saturday at High Noon.
Allow me to digress at this point……. So, I make the drive up and there’s an accident on 125 before the lee traffic circle. I re-route and find my way to the expansive UNH parking lot. I make my way to the tunnel through excruciating wind and to the pass door and came to the conclusion that in 41 years of going to HS tournament games at UNH, this was the COLDEST DAMN WALK I’ve ever made. I get in the long hallway of pictures and awards and gratefully stand in front of a heater for a couple of moments. My body was near frozen and my hands were near Kabongo-frost bitten. I’m actually thinking I might not be able to cover the game.
After warming up and getting circulation to circulate in my body I kiddingly say to the woman at the pass table, “Gee, I hope power doesn’t go out tonight?” She says, “It actually did around 5:30 for about 10 minutes.” What is it about the D2 boy’s semifinal night? In 2010 there were fire alarms that went off during the Milford – Portsmouth semifinal because of the air from Clipper balloons. Everyone was escorted outside Lundholm for 30 minutes, including players. It was kind of cool talking to some Milford players I knew as we looked over the UNH football field freezing, but I’d rather be watching them play than talking to them. Last year the D2 semi-final night got snowed out at UNH and then was played at Exeter High the day before the Ship. Now, I’m thinking bad things come in 3’s and the power will go out and I’ll develop Kabongo-frost bite symptoms on my hands and won’t be able to write up the game…….
Well, power didn’t go out, the game was started and my Kabongo-frost bite symptoms went away. I guess good basketball things can come in 3’s also.
Lebanon gave the #1 seeded Clippers’ all they could in the first half. The spectacular sophomore tandem of KJ Matte and Ryan Milliken combined for 22 first half points in helping to give the Raiders a 26 to 24 lead over the Clippers. This backcourt was one of the best in D2 this season and will be for the next couple of years. Milliken has a nice balanced handle in controlling the rock. He’s strong and assured with the way he sets up the Lebanon offense. When the Lebanon offense stalls he doesn’t miond taking the outside shot or driving with some nifty moves to the rack. Matte can knock down the 3 or drive with a nice blend of strength and quickness to the hoop.
Portsmouth stayed close in the first half with 7 points by Cody Graham and two 3’s by senior guard Charlie Lehoux. Neither team shot well in the first half with Lebanon clanking at 36% rate and Portsmouth bonking at a 32% clip. One thing became evident in the first half. Portsmouth was deeper and bigger. This would be a factor in the 2nd half.
Portsmouth started seizing control in the 3rd quarter due to 2 factors: Offensive rebounding dominance and cold shooting by Lebanon. The Clippers were simply getting more shots and even though their shooting percentage wasn’t great, they were converting with the extra offensive shots. Lebanon became a 1man show in the 3rd heading into the 4th period. They were going to sink or swim on the back of KJ Matte. He was showing signs of wearing down due to the Portsmouth depth and their tough defense on him.
At the end of the 3rd a Shon Parham put back with 30 seconds remaining gave Portsmouth a 38 to 32 lead heading to the last period. It felt like a double digit Clipper lead. A Joey Glynn layup with 6:35 left gave Portsmouth a 40 – 32 lead on another offensive board bashing by Portsmouth. In the next 2 minutes Lebanon continued to wear down while a Lehoux 3 and Glynn layup gave Portsmouth a 45 to 32 lead. At this point Lebanon had more questions than answers and the game was put in a comfortable Portsmouth pocket. Lebanon continued to struggle on offense, Portsmouth controlled the boards and the clock. It was just a matter of running off the last 4 minutes to send Portsmouth to the championship game.
Lebanon played very well for nearly 3 quarters, but they just couldn’t compete with Portsmouth on the boards or in the strength department. Lebanon is 1 Big away from breaking through the D2 Final Four wall and getting to the Championship game. Portsmouth took a pretty good wave from Lebanon, but came up breathing some Championship game air. The High Noon showdown will be a good one with Bishop Brady. The Bell Bros vs Parham and Graham. Lehoux vs Johnson. 6’4 and strong Joey Glynn vs just as strong 6’6 Aaron Svendsen.
There’s just some great individual match-ups in this game, which translates to a great match-up of the teams. There is a reason their game on Feb. 25th was a 2 point OT game. Brady and Portsmouth are a basketball whisker from each other. They are the 2 best 2 teams vying for the D2 Championship this Saturday.
I want 3 things this Saturday: 1) A good D2 Ship. 2) A good D1 Ship. 3) A warmer walk in the UNH parking lot. Basketball things do come in 3’s after all.