NHIAA Div. II Boys' Baskebtall Semifinals: Lebanon spirit rekindled
In 1998, Kieth Matte took the torch from the legendary Lang Metcalf and has never produced a losing season at Lebanon High.
"There's so much tradition with the Metcalf family," said Matte. "Dan and his son, Lang, coached Lebanon basketball for 54 years combined. It was an honor to be named the head coach after Lang stepped down and I've always wanted to keep the winning tradition alive."
Matte and the third-ranked Raiders (16-4) hope their first trip since 2000 to Durham is a successful one as they meet seventh-ranked Souhegan (13-7) in the 6 p.m. semifinal opener of the Division II boys' basketball tournament at the University of New Hampshire's Lundholm Gym.
The 7:30 p.m. nightcap features undefeated and top-ranked Pembroke Academy (20-0) against a determined 13th-seeded Coe-Brown Academy squad from Northwood.
"I'm not really surprised because all four teams are playing well and deserving of reaching the semifinals," said Matte. "Pembroke has been consistent and they're well coached. Souhegan has overcome injuries and emotion (following the untimely death of 2012 player Tony Barksdale) and has hit its stride at the right time. Dave Smith (principal and head coach) has been at Coe-Brown for a very long time and knows how to prepare his teams for the playoffs. So when you look at both games, to me it's a coin toss. Any of the four remaining teams can win it all."
David Hampton, Nick Shepherd, Dom Morrill, Vin Guerrin and Dillon Drew are the starters for Lebanon, which defeated Souhegan 70-54 two games into the season.
"It has no bearing on this game and I felt I wasted my time watching the tape of that game the other night," said Matte. ""That game was in December before Christmas and Zach Simmonds was hurt and didn't even play for Souhegan. Tyler Ford played and ended up getting hurt. It's totally a different game this time with two teams who are far different and better today than they were back in December."
Hampton will be a handful for the Sabers. The senior shooting guard has scored over 1,200 points in his career. He netted 35 points against the Sabers during that regular-season game.
"He's our leader, David sets the tone and leads by example," said Matte. "But we also have a dozen other players who contributed to our season. It's just not one player but the whole team that we rely on heavily."
Pembroke defeated Pelham 47-35 in the quarterfinals last Saturday. The Spartans, under head coach Matt Alosa, have been stingy on defense for most of the season. While Pat Welch has a reputation of lighting up gyms with his scoring prowess, the Spartans are talented up and down the line-up. Dominic Timbas, Matt Persons, Kafani Williams and Rene Maher are all capable of posting double-digit points.
The interesting story entering the game will be just how coach Smith and the Bears plan to play the Spartans. During the regular season, the Bears tried to slow the tempo, eventually losing a 43-37 decision. If Smith feels his team was successful playing that style against Pembroke, he may elect to do the same thing again tonight.