Lebanon tops HB in D-II semi
By TOM KING
DURHAM – The ball was bouncing around at half court and belonged to anyone. Yes, a 50-50 ball.
Suddenly, though, Lebanon’s Ryan Milliken turned on the jets, and the look on the face of Hollis Brookline’s Stephen Giaconia all but said, “Uh-oh.”
That was the story of the Cavaliers’ night, as Milliken was sparkplug for No. 1 Lebanon in a 50-36 Division II semifinal boys basketball win March 15 over HB at the University of New Hampshire’s Lundholm Gym.
The No. 4 Cavaliers, done at 15-6, just couldn’t climb high enough as they never had the lead. The Raiders (20-1) rolled past Coe-Brown for the title on Saturday.
“It was an uphill battle all night,” HB coach Mike Soucy said. “Anytime we’d get some traction, then we’d slip a little bit. We’d get a 4-0, 6-0 run, but we just never could gain regular traction in what we wanted to do.”
The Cavaliers had grit, but the Raiders had speed. And Milliken, who finished with 21 points, but Hollis Brookline had a lot of Matt Simco, who led them with 20 points and set a tough inside tone.
But that toughness worked against the Cavaliers at a critical juncture. With HB down 42-34 with 2:59 to play, there was contact after the whistle and a technical was called on Giaconia, who was battling a sinus infection all week. The Raiders’ K.J. Matte hit two of three free throws, and 40 seconds later, Milliken hit a pair and Lebanon was off on a game clinching 8-2 run.
“Frustration,” Soucy said. “It was still there.”
Thanks in part to Simco.
“He was an animal,” Soucy said. “We didn’t give him enough help. … I’m proud of these kids. They had a great year. We competed all year. We competed tonight.”
One thing that hurt the Cavs was they were outrebounded, 26-22, and that was supposed to be their bread and butter.
“Give them credit, they outrebounded us in the first half and they may have in the second half,” Soucy said. “And that was our greatest advantage coming into the game.”
The Cavs were behind from the get-go, down 8-2. They closed to 13-11 early in the second quarter, but a 16-6 Raider run to end the half, keyed by a couple of Matt Eylander put-backs, had the top seed up 29-17.
But to the Cavs’ credit, the Raiders weren’t able to run away and hide, even though it looked at times as if they would. They had cut the Raider lead to 39-32 with 5:41 to play and had the ball, but the Raiders’ Graham Chickering stole the ball, Milliken raced in for a layup and HB never got any closer.
“They’re a really well-coached team and they pose a lot of problems for us,” Lebanon coach Keith Matte said. “We take a lot of perimeter shots, and to be honest, we didn’t shoot it great (16 of 39) tonight. But the key was we scored some buckets off of turnovers, and we didn’t turn it over.”
True, the Cavaliers had 15 turnovers to the Raiders’ 10. But Lebanon’s real advantage was its speed, the tempo set by Milliken, Divison II’s Player of the Year.
“He’s tough, he’s so fast,” Soucy said. “They’re a really, really good team. We were going to have to play really well to beat them. We didn’t quite play to the level that we’re capable of, but give them credit for that.”
The Raiders should also get credit for holding the rest of HB’s scorers at bay. Nick Fothergill came after Simco with seven points. But they also did a good job on the other Raiders, as Graham Chickering was next after Milliken with nine.
“Our first priority was to shut down Fothergill,” Matte said. “When we were able to hold him to one field goal, a lot of other guys would have to make up the difference.”
And, unfortunately for the Cavs, they weren’t able to.