By: Ross Laorenza
It was evident early on that Lebanon was the better basketball team. It was crystal clear by halftime.The Raiders jumped out to a 38-9 first half lead en route to a 59-40 victory over a good Souhegan team, Friday night.
"I was really pleased with our first half," said head coach Keith Matte. "Defensively is how we measure ourselves and defensively we did a great job in the first."
The Raider defense clamped down after allowing an opening basket to Raju Gandhi. It was an all around effort that forced numerous bad passes and errant shots. After Gandhi's floater Lebanon ripped off 19 straight points. 6"4' big man Matthew Eylander tied the scoring at 2 starting the run. KJ Matte followed him with a deep three pointer and then a transition lay up after a Saber turnover. After a quick timeout the scoring onslaught resumed. Gregory Roberge found Austin Whaley open and Whaley knocked down the three-point shot. Jeremiah Morton tapped in a missed three point attempt out jumping his defender, Whaley powered his way through the paint for 2, Matte scored again in transition and then capped the 19-0 run with a deep three pointer.
Souhegan wound finally end their scoring drought nearly five-and-a-half minutes after their first basket with as full-court pass from Jerrell Webster to Gandhi. After one, Lebanon: 19, Souhegan: 4.
Lebanon stepped on the gas pedal again, opening the second quarter with a 13-2 run. Jake Hansen open the scoring with a basket inside. Next, Gregory Roberge hit a three-pointer that bounced around three times before dropping in. After a missed Saber opportunity KJ Matte took the ball to the rim and scored. He grabbed an offensive rebound on the next Raider possession and put it home for two more. Gabriel Cruz grabbed a rebound and scored for the Sabers, but they still trailed by 22 points (28-6) just three minutes into the second quarter.
The Raider completed an excellent inbound play getting the ball to a wide open Matte coming off a screen. He drilled the corner three extending the Raider lead to 25 points. With 3:25 remaining Eylander went to the line after being fouled by Davis Biddle. Eylander went 1-of-2.
With 2:50 to play in the half a big battle underneath saw Souhegan's Zach Thibeault and Jerrel Webester throw up 4 straight shots from in close, but nothing would go and the ball was knocked out of bounds. The Sabers maintained possession and Ryan Hickey got himself open for three. This shot went through, but the Raiders still lead 32-9.
Lebanon shut out Souhegan for the remainder of the half but added baskets from Whaley and Hansen. At the end of the first half Lebanon holds a commanding 38-9 lead on the road.
To their credit, the Sabers did not give up and opened the second half with a renewed sense of confidence. Gabriel Cruz opened the half with a lay up inside. On the next Saber possession he drilled a three that had fans dreaming of a comeback that would never arrive. After a finger roll from KJ Matte, Raju Gandhi hit from three-point land and suddenly the lead was down to 23. Gandhi would hit two more triples in the quarter as Souhegan outscored Lebanon 18-9. At the end of three, Lebanon: 47, Souhegan: 27.
A quick three from Roberge opened the scoring in the 4th for the Raiders. Austin Whaley followed with a great pass inside to Jake Hansen who scored. Four straight points from Gabriel Cruz within 21, but the deficit was just too much for the Sabers in the end. Lebanon emptied their bench with three minutes to play, now leading by 23 points. Final score, Lebanon: 59, Souhegan: 40.
KJ Matte led all scorers with 20 points for the Raiders. Austin Whaley finished with 11 points, Jake Hansen total 8 points and Matthew Eylander finished with 7 in the win.
Raju Gandhi led the Sabers with 15 points. Gabriel Cruz followed with 11 points.
From Souhegan High School; Ross Laorenza: New Hampshire Notebook