Souhegan outduels Lebanon to reach semifinals
Thursday, March 21, 2013
DURHAM – Brandon Len stood in the hallway underneath the Lundholm Gymnasium at the University of New Hampshire, wiggling a tooth.
“It’s coming out,” the Souhegan High School senior said with his hand in his mouth. As he touched the tooth, blood began to trickle down it.
Despite an early face-to-floor meeting, along with an elbow to the chops from a teammate, Len was only off the court long enough to stop the bleeding.
Good thing for the No. 7 Souhegan boys basketball team, not so good for No. 3 Lebanon.
Len scored a game-high 21 points and Jake Kennedy had 12 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Sabers to a 53-45 win Wednesday night over the Raiders in the Division II semifinals at UNH. The win puts Souhegan in the division championship game Saturday at noon against No. 1 Pembroke.
While Len was taking control of the offense, the Sabers found a way to slow down Lebanon’s David Hampton. When the teams played in the regular season – a Souhegan loss – Hampton went for 35 points; on Wednesday, the senior finished with 10.
“We tried to control him a little bit,” Souhegan coach Mike Heaney said. “He had 30-plus points on us last time. The kid can really shoot. We tried to control him a little bit. We gave up a couple to him, but we did a pretty good job.”
Souhegan got out to a 9-0 lead and managed to hold Lebanon off for most of the game. But with 2:17 remaining, Kalin Sou hit a 3-pointer for the Raiders to tie the game at 44.
After a foul on Lebanon, Zach Simmonds hit a 3-pointer from the corner – his only points of the game – to put the Sabers on top for good with 1:40 left. The Raiders turned the ball over on their next possession, and after draining some of the clock, a layup by Kennedy made it a five-point lead with under a minute to go.
“We were talking about how many timeouts we had left and when to take them,” Heaney said of what he was thinking when Lebanon was chipping away. “We were a little jittery, but I didn’t want to go to them yet. They took one and I think that helped. We caught our breath. We’re seniors, we needed to settle down, and I think we did.”
Like he did against Portsmouth in the quarterfinals, Len hit his free throws, making all four in the final 35 seconds. For the game, he was 6 of 7, with the lone miss coming right after his crash into the floor.
“There’s no way I’m passing up these free throws,” Len said, repeating what he told one of the officials. “A.J. Hayes went up to block a shot and I went over to contest it, and he came down right there (on the tooth). I think that’s what loosened it, I smashed my face. It was a rough game.”
And now Souhegan will have one more.
“It’s unbelievable,” Len said. “We said all season, it’s how we play in March.”