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Div. II Boys' Basketball Final: Milliken, Raiders lock it up

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 19. 2017 12:58AM
Lebanon's Ryan Milliken, left, Noah Didehbani, center, and Graham Chickering celebrate the team's 59-42 win over Coe-Brown of Northwood in the NHIAA Division II boys' basketball championship game at the University of New Hampshire in Durham on Saturday. (Mark Bolton/Union Leader)

DURHAM - Perhaps no NHIAA Division II boys' basketball player had a more satisfying season than Lebanon's Ryan Milliken.

Milliken, a 5-foot-10 senior guard, was named the Division II Player of the Year earlier this month. He capped his high school career Saturday by scoring a game-high 23 points to lead top-seeded Lebanon to a 59-42 triumph over third-seeded Coe-Brown of Northwood in the Division II championship game at the University of New Hampshire.

Milliken made 6 of his 13 field goal attempts - two of which were 3-pointers - and 9 of his 10 attempts from the free-throw line. The Raiders (20-1) made 24 of their 26 attempts from the free-throw line in the game.

"It (the season) couldn't have gone any better," Milliken said. "I love playing with my teammates. All my coaches are great guys. I wouldn't trade this for anything.

"I wanted to play as good as possible this season, especially since it's my last year. I wanted to prove to everybody that I wasn't just a football player, and that I could play basketball just as well."

It's the first state championship for the Lebanon program since 1998, when the Raiders beat Bishop Brady of Concord 60-48 to win the Class I title.

Junior forward Christopher Nulty tossed in 14 points for Lebanon, which received 12 points from junior center/forward Matthew Eylander.

Coe-Brown (18-4) was within two points in the third quarter, but Lebanon led by five after three quarters - thanks to a Milliken 3-pointer at the buzzer - and the Raiders outscored the Bears 25-13 over the final eight minutes.

The Bears had a rough time making field goals throughout the game. Coe-Brown shot 29.5 percent (14 for 44), including 3 of 15 attempts from behind the 3-point arc. Coe-Brown was within five points at halftime, despite shooting 2 for 14 from the field (14.3 percent) in the first two quarters. The Bears made each of their 12 free throw attempts in the first half.

"Obviously Lebanon's a great team and they missed two free throws all night, which is big," Coe-Brown coach David Smith said. "We didn't get to the line soon enough in the second half and they're just too good to let that happen. We had a couple key players who couldn't do much tonight (because of Lebanon's defense). They played a great game. They really did."

Smith called Milliken a terrific player at both ends of the court.

"He makes them go," Smith said. "A lot of penetration. Defensively, whoever he guards he kind of shuts them down."

Senior guard Brody Ashley finished with 14 points and was the only Coe-Brown player to score in double figures. Shawn Spenard, Scott Spenard, Sam Lupinacci and Dylan Andrews all finished with six.

Coe-Brown was seeking its first Division II championship. It was the first time the Bears reached the Division II championship game since 2003, when Souhegan of Amherst beat Coe-Brown 53-42.

Lebanon lost to Portsmouth is last year's Division II championship game.

"I think our experience being here helped us," Lebanon coach Kieth Matte said. "We didn't get rattled. When we would miss a shot we were fine. All of our struggles helped prepare us for this moment. Coe-Brown hadn't been here. We'd been here. We've suffered. We've had that feeling in our belly many times.

"This is such a special group of kids. I'm sad there's no practice tomorrow."

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