In a game between arguably the two best teams in D-II girls basketball, Lebanon went on the road and beat Bishop Brady in convincing fashion, 47-31. Lebanon remains undefeated on the season - they are now 11-0, while Brady falls to 10-2. Both of Brady's losses have come to Lebanon. The Raiders led by as many as 17 (45-28).
"This was a good win for us" said Lebanon's legendary head coach Tim Kehoe. "I liked how we controlled the boards. We have some great leadership. Jojo (Joslin Wainwright) is a great leader and she controls the boards. It's not just the bigs - our guards were rebounding too. One concern I had coming in, was turnovers but I was pleased with how we controlled our turnovers."
Not only did Lebanon do a good job of protecting the basketball, they pressured the heck out of it on defense which led to numerous Bishop Brady turnovers. Lebanon played tenacious, intense, in-your-face man-to-man half court pressure defense. The Raiders completely took Brady out of their offensive rhythm, forcing turnovers and ill-advised 3-pointers. The Giants often settled for the outside shot and they weren't falling - Brady shot just 5/22 from downtown. Playing on such a small court, Lebanon's pressure 'D' smothered Brady - 3 times the Giants stepped out of bounds as a result.
"Defense is what we hang our hat on" said Coach Kehoe.
The Player of the Game for Lebanon was 6-foot-2 freshman forward Rebecca Wright, who poured in a game-high 20 points to go with 8 rebounds and 2 blocks. Wright had an impressive all-around game, especially considering she was going up against Brady's junior 6-footer Samantha Will, who has already been established as one of the top bigs in the state. Wright was a force inside all game long, and also made some nice passes from the perimeter.
"She's a player" said Coach Kehoe about Wright. "She's only 14. She also leads our team in 3's."
The Raiders jumped out to a 9-4 lead early on, but then Bishop Brady freshman guard Sofia Riccio slashed to the rim, driving with her left hand and finished with her left as well to cut the Lebanon lead to 9-6. Raiders sophomore guard Madeline Hastings (7 points) made a nice hustle play, diving on the floor for a loose ball. Lebanon scored on the other end, and it was 11-6 Raiders after 1 quarter.
Bishop Brady junior guard Lauren Roy came out firing to start the 2nd quarter, nailing a 3-pointer off the catch off a drive and kick-out by Caitlin Mallahan. Roy showed good form on the shot. Lebanon's lead was cut to 11-9. Still, you had to be impressed with the man-to-man pressure defense by Lebanon, really making Brady work for any point they got. Brady meanwhile was taking too many outside shots, they needed to take it to the basket more. Meanwhile, Lebanon was attacking the basket all game.
Wright made a strong move to the basket and finish inside. Lebanon got a quick bucket off another Bishop Brady turnover, which came as a result of Lebanon's pressure 'D'. Will (team-high 9 points, 9 rebounds and 3 blocks) made a nice block, and on the other end Will drained a 3-pointer. That cut the Raiders' lead to 15-12 with 4:05 left in the 1st half. Coach Kehoe called a timeout, and the Brady student section went nuts!
Lebanon started working their high-low sets, as Wainwright made a very good pass lobbing it from up top to Wright in the low post for a layup. Brady answered on the other end, quickly pushing the ball and getting it inside to Will for a layup. Lebanon's lead was down to 17-14. Brady continued to launch 3's and they weren't falling. Brady picked up their pressure 'D', forcing a 5 second inbound violation on Lebanon. On the other end Riccio drilled a 3-pointer and we were all tied up 17-17. The intensity on the part of both teams continued - Lebanon made two good passes on the same possession, setting up a layup attempt inside, but Will was there to make another nice block. At this point it looked like an even match-up!
Wainwright hustled after the boards, converting a put-back, as Lebanon went back on top 21-17. Bishop Brady junior point guard Sarah Doherty (transfer from Goffstown where she won a state title last year) cut back-door against the aggressive, over-playing Lebanon guards on 'D'. Doherty received the pass in the paint and flipped in the bucket, and-1. The aggressive pressure 'D' of Lebanon is very effective on a small court like this one. On the bigger floor at SNHU though, the opposing team can spread them out and have more room to operate, drive and run their offense. Lebanon maintained a slim 21-19 lead at halftime.
Give credit to the Raiders' defense, as they held Brady to just 12 points in the 2nd half. Lebanon sophomore guard Anna Wolke made a nice pass to Wainwright, who was cutting to the basket for a layup early in the 3rd quarter. Mallahan hit a bank shot inside for Brady. But then the Giants best player Will was forced to sit for a few minutes with foul trouble.
Due to the small court and pressure 'D' of Lebanon, Brady stepped out of bounds with the ball for the second time. These were costly turnovers. Raiders senior guard Josephine Brown converted a quick layup on the other end, and it was 28-21 Lebanon with 5:45 left in the 3rd quarter. Giants first-year head coach Annie Alosa was forced to call a timeout to try and stop the bleeding.
Out of the timeout the Raiders continued to add to their lead. Wright ran the floor in transition and converted a put-back. Just moments later Wright finished another layup, this time off a nice dish on the fast-break by Hastings. Lebanon now had a 32-21 lead. Brady answered back on the other end with a quick drive and layup in traffic by Doherty (7 points).
Wright made a nice pass on a high-low feed to Wainwright for a layup and a 34-23 Raiders lead. It was 34-25 Lebanon after 3.
"We run a lot of sets, and this was one team I thought the high-low sets would work well against" said Coach Kehoe. "I got that from Coach Bill Self of Kansas."
The standout freshman Wright continued to shine in the 4th quarter. She made a really nice move, getting the ball with her back to the basket around the foul line, then turned, used a drop step and made a strong move to the rim, hitting a tough leaner inside for 2. She has a good combination of strength and finesse as a young post player.
Doherty was keeping Brady alive, hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Wright made a nice block on 'D'.
"It's nice having a 6-foot-2 kid protecting the rim for us" said Kehoe. "We haven't had that before."
Then it was Wainwright making a nice block for Lebanon on an attempted 3-pointer by Brady. Then the Giants stepped out of bounds with the ball for the third time. Wainwright (10 points) made a nice move, similar to the one Wright made earlier in the quarter - she got the ball around the foul line, back to the basket and then turned, took it to the rim for a strong finish. Lebanon led 39-28 with 2:35 left in regulation.
Wright continued to play outstanding basketball. This time, with Lebanon moving the ball around the perimeter to run the clock, Wright got the ball out on the right wing, saw she had an open driving lane so she took it to the rim, scoring over two defenders for a strong and-1 finish. The Raiders players on the court and their bench were pumped!
Lebanon extended their lead to 45-28, Brady continued to miss 3's. The Giants need to take higher percentage shots, especially against a team this good. The Raiders cruise to the 47-31 win.
Although Lebanon already beat Brady earlier this season, Coach Kehoe was more satisfied with this win. Not only did they pull out the win tonight on the road, but they did it without one of their best players, senior guard Meredith Melendy.
"Meredith tore her ACL in that other game against Brady" explained Coach Kehoe. "She is a hard worker, and was averaging about 15-16 points per game for us."
Wright has helped to pick up that scoring load. She will likely be a 1st team all-state selection as a freshman, and it will be the second year in a row that a freshman makes 1st team all-state in D-II girls basketball. Last year it was Hanover's Silke Milliman, who is now at Northfield Mount Hermon. So apparently the Upper Valley has all kinds of 6-footers who can play basketball coming up through the ranks these days!
Lebanon is not only the team to beat in D-II, they're one of the top 3 or 4 teams in the entire state, regardless of division. The Raiders took Bedford to overtime in the Queen City Holiday Tournament.
As good as Lebanon is, it's scary to think how good they'd be with Taylor Soule. Soule, a 6-foot junior forward just committed to Boston College on a basketball scholarship. Soule is from Lebanon, but has attended nearby Kimball Union Academy for all four years.
One other note on Lebanon - the entire game the Raiders bench cheers "Defense! Defense!" whenever their team is on 'D'. This may not seem like a big deal, but this does three things. 1 - it keeps the bench in the game, they're cheering the whole time, they're attentively watching the game so they're ready for when they go in. 2 - it pumps up the Lebanon players who are on the court. 3 - it intimidates the opposing team. A small thing that can make a big difference for the Raiders. They've done it as many years as I've been covering them under Coach Kehoe.