Lebanon girls basketball program in rebuilding mode

Timberlane High's Maia Parker (15) drives past Lebanon's Izzy Hamilton during the NHIAA Division II teams' Feb. 15, 2024, game in Lebanon, N.H. Timberlane won, 47-39, in overtime, with Parker scoring a game-high 23 points. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Timberlane High's Maia Parker (15) drives past Lebanon's Izzy Hamilton during the NHIAA Division II teams' Feb. 15, 2024, game in Lebanon, N.H. Timberlane won, 47-39, in overtime, with Parker scoring a game-high 23 points. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. valley news photographs — Tris Wykes

Timberlane High's Cecilia Penny, left, and Lebanon's Summer Crowell reach for the ball during their NHIAA Division II teams' Feb. 15, 2024, game in Lebanon, N.H. Nina Ellington (23) looks on. Timberlane won, 47-39, in overtime. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Timberlane High's Cecilia Penny, left, and Lebanon's Summer Crowell reach for the ball during their NHIAA Division II teams' Feb. 15, 2024, game in Lebanon, N.H. Nina Ellington (23) looks on. Timberlane won, 47-39, in overtime. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. valley news — Tris Wykes

Lebanon High's Sarah Belk, right, wrestles with Timberlane's Cecilia Penny during the NHIAA Division II teams' Feb. 15, 2024, game in Lebanon, N.H. Timberlane won, 47-39, in overtime. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Lebanon High's Sarah Belk, right, wrestles with Timberlane's Cecilia Penny during the NHIAA Division II teams' Feb. 15, 2024, game in Lebanon, N.H. Timberlane won, 47-39, in overtime. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

Lebanon High's Drew Kantor, left, looks past Timberlane's Ella Lampron and towards the rim during the NHIAA Division II teams' Feb. 15, 2024, Timberlane won, 47-37, in overtime. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Lebanon High's Drew Kantor, left, looks past Timberlane's Ella Lampron and towards the rim during the NHIAA Division II teams' Feb. 15, 2024, Timberlane won, 47-37, in overtime. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

Lebanon High's Lucy Eshbaugh attempts to split Timberlane defenders Rylee Donahue, left, and Ava Stewart during the NHIAA Division II teams' Feb. 15, 2024, game in Lebanon, N.H. Timberlane won, 47-39, in overtime. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission.

Lebanon High's Lucy Eshbaugh attempts to split Timberlane defenders Rylee Donahue, left, and Ava Stewart during the NHIAA Division II teams' Feb. 15, 2024, game in Lebanon, N.H. Timberlane won, 47-39, in overtime. (Valley News - Tris Wykes) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. —Tris Wykes

By TRIS WYKES

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 02-16-2024 3:40 PM

Modified: 02-18-2024 7:53 PM


LEBANON — Jeff Sowa, do you believe in moral victories?

“Absolutely,” said the first-year Lebanon High girls basketball coach Thursday, minutes after the Raiders extended Timberlane to overtime during a 47-39 loss. “That was a win for us, regardless of the scoreboard. We got good shots, but they just didn’t fall when we needed them to.”

Lebanon trailed, 29-24, after three quarters and appeared to be wearing down. However, the hosts fought to within 32-28 with 1 minute, 40 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. Senior Sarah Belk sank a pair of free throws with 16 seconds on the Lang Metcalf Gymnasium clock to force overtime.

The Raiders withered during the extra session, however, missing all eight field-goal attempts and falling to 4-13. Timberlane improved to 8-9. The Owls’ Maia Parker scored a game-high 23 points, while Izzy Hamilton led Lebanon with 17 points.

Lebanon, working under its fourth coach in five years, is 19th in the 22-team NHIAA Division II standings and a long way from the program that was once an annual title contender. The Raiders endured a pair of losing streaks this winter but entered Thursday’s contest having won twice in their last three outings.

Lebanon is improving, despite the losses piling up.

The Raiders began the season with five defeats before Sowa, also a Lebanon Middle School health teacher, instituted a full-court press on defense. Led by relentless and whippet-quick point guard Norah Burns, that effort at times gave Timberlane fits and helped the hosts back into the game.

Lebanon struggles to avoid turnovers of its own but has become increasingly difficult to score against, holding six of its last eight opponents under 40 points through regulation time.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Zantop daughter: ‘I wish James' family the best and hope that they are able to heal’
James Parker granted parole for his role in Dartmouth professors’ stabbing deaths
2024 Upper Valley high school softball guide
Interim Lebanon Middle School principal to hold position permanently
Art Notes: After losing primary venues, JAG Productions persists
Chelsea Green to be sold to international publishing behemoth

“I like how much better they are at seeing the floor,” Sowa said of his troops. “They see when double teams are coming and when their teammates are open. They’re more willing to share the ball and they commit to what they’re doing without hesitation.

“We continue to get better and better. It’s just a shame the season isn’t longer.”

Burns and Belk each had six points, and the Raiders, who close their season Tuesday by hosting Bishop Brady (4-12), lose only three seniors, giving things an optimistic feel. If Sowa can coax true commitment to his summer program, Lebanon could be a playoff team once again.

“We gave ourselves a chance to win tonight after it didn’t look good in the fourth quarter,” the coach said. “I couldn’t be more proud of that.”

Notes: Sowa showed he’s still got hops when the ball became wedged against the side of the rim during the second half. The tall, former Manchester Memorial star jogged a few steps and — with a graceful leap — dislodged the rock so play could resume. … Moments later, the ball zipped out of bounds and into a garbage can behind the Raiders’ bench. Athletic director Mike Stone rode to the rescue, toweling off the damp ball before handing it back to a referee. … Lebanon football coach Doug Johnson, sitting in the front row, shook his head as players repeatedly inbounded the ball from under their own basket and into the paint. Johnson, who played for the legendary Metcalf, said putting the ball in such potential danger was a surefire way to wind up on the bench in his day.

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.