Cavs drop Lebanon
HOLLIS – It had been over a year since the Lebanon boys basketball team dropped a regular-season game.
The Cavaliers put an end to the Raiders’ 24-game streak on Jan. 20 in Hollis.
Nick Fothergill scored 18 points – 15 in the second half – while Matt Simco and Matt Dowling each recorded a double-double to pace Hollis Brookline to a 61-51 victory over Lebanon in a Division II showdown.
Lebanon (5-1), which went undefeated before falling to Portsmouth in last season’s D-II championship, was without the services of senior and 2015-16 D-II Player of the Year K.J. Matte. However, the Raiders still managed a 13-7 lead after the first quarter.
Hollis Brookline (5-1) buckled down defensively, crashed the glass and seized control in the second quarter, outscoring Lebanon 20-8 during the frame to take a 27-21 edge into halftime.
"We’re tougher than I thought we were," Hollis Bookline coach Mike Soucy said. "We could take a punch and come right back. In years past, that might not have happened. That mental and physical toughness they showed tonight was impressive to me."
Simco and Dowling were forces in the paint, paving the way for a 38-32 rebounding advantage for the Cavs. Simco finished with 11 points, 14 boards, two steals and two blocks, while Dowling tallied 10 points and 11 rebounds.
"Hollis did a great job and played super hard. They pose unique problems for us with two big kids," Lebanon coach Keith Matte said. "I’m satisfied with our effort tonight. We didn’t shoot it great. At the end of the day, this game is pretty simple. If you shoot poorly and you play a good team on the road, you’re going down."
The Raiders didn’t go down without a fight, though.
Fothergill sparked the Cavaliers with three 3-pointers in the third quarter, and his final trey provided HB with a 43-31 cushion. However, Simco was whistled for his third foul with 2:25 left in the third and Lebanon closed the frame on an 11-0 run to trim the gap to 43-42 entering the fourth.
Simco was sorely missed, but the Cavaliers managed to get back on track following his return.
"He’s an all-energy guy," Soucy said of Simco. "As a starter, you don’t typically have that. Those guys typically come off the bench, but he’s an all-energy guy all the time. It just boosts everybody else."
Stephen Giaconia supplied some big buckets – including a 3-pointer just before halftime and a floater in the lane to put the Cavs up 55-48 in the fourth – and the HB senior finished with 16 points, five rebounds and two assists.
Lebanon was hanging around, trailing 55-51, when Fothergill secured the victory with six consecutive free throws in the final 1:22.
"In a close game down the stretch, we’re going to do everything we can offensively to make sure the ball is in his hands, so that if they have to foul, we’re getting the ball to our best free-throw shooter," Soucy said. "We did tonight and he knocked down those free throws, so that was big."
Ryan Milliken led the Raiders with 18 points, three assists and three steals, while Hunter Bienvenu added 14 points and five boards. Graham Chickering chipped in 10 points, seven rebounds and three steals for the visitors.
Lebanon’s loss, the first in the regular season since dropping the 2014-15 finale, leaves Milford (7-0) as the lone unbeaten team in Division II. There were plenty of Spartans at the game to get a firsthand look at some of their competition for the D-II crown.
Although it had been a while, the Raiders’ defeat wasn’t shocking to Coach Matte.
"Our division is pretty wide open. This (loss) doesn’t surprise me at all," Matte said. "We try to look at this as an opportunity for guys to get better. This was an opportunity to play a good team on the road in a pretty cool environment. There’s no shame in losing to that team here."