LEBANON — After placing third the last three seasons, the Lebanon girls basketball team wanted to make sure they secured second place in the conference with a win in their regular-season finale on Friday night.
And after a little bit of a slow start, the Lady Tigers were able to do just that.
Lebanon used a 15-0 run spanning the second and third quarters to build a lead, and never looked back in a 48-34 win over Southmont.
“The girls came out and it was almost like they were afraid to fail,” Lebanon head coach Candice Huckstep said. “This was a game we really wanted to win and knew we had to perform well. Once we calmed down our nerves and stuff, we played much better into the second half.”
Early on, it was the visiting Mounties that controlled the game.
Southmont jumped out to leads of 7-2 and 10-4, and after Lebanon closed to within 15-12 early in the second quarter, back-to-back baskets from Chelsea Veatch and Cheyenne Shaw gave the Mounties a 19-12 lead midway through the second quarter.
“I was really proud of the way we started,” Southmont head coach Dan Burkman said. “The end of the second quarter and the third quarter got us. Early on, our 1-3-1 was giving them fits because we had good energy, our offense was moving because we were cutting hard and moving the ball quickly and that kind of faded as we got tired.”
The Lady Tigers had the answer.
A 3-pointer from Maiya Newsom sparked 7-0 run, and baskets from Riley Vanaman and Alexandria Barr, along with two Vanaman free throws gave Lebanon a 21-19 lead at the half.
Lebanon then scored the first six points of the third quarter, building the lead to 27-19 on a 3-pointer from Barr.
“Our defensive rotations were a lot better,” Huckstep said. “We talk with our posts a lot about taking away baseline drives and almost hedging instead of full committing. We had to make some small adjustments because they were just dumping it down to their post and hitting us with backdoor cuts. We also wanted to get to the free-throw line more and attack the basket, and I think we did a much better job of that.”
Burkman said the Mounties just ran out of gas after their initial burst in the first half.
“I don’t think there is any doubt we ran out of gas,” Burkman said. “We exerted so much energy in the first 12 minutes and we were spent. We had a girl out with a concussion and we really didn’t sub in the first half, so our girls got pretty tired.”
Lebanon built the lead to 14 at the end of three and led by as many as 16 in the fourth quarter.
Barr led the Tigers with 13 and Charli Albea had 10. Vanaman also chipped in 10 for the Tigers.
Delorean Mason led the Mounties with 12. Shaw had eight and Veatch had six.
The Mounties finish the season 11-10.
“We are in a good spot,” Burkman said. “Before tonight we had won three in a row and I felt like we gave Lebanon a pretty good fight tonight. I feel good about where we are at heading into the sectional.”
BOYS BATTLE TIGERS TILL VERY END
After sharing the Sagamore Conference title a year ago, the Lebanon boys basketball team had been on a mission all winter to try and win the conference title outright.
And while it wasn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination, they got the job done on Friday night.
Visiting Southmont pushed the Tigers the entire game, but Lebanon prevailed 40-37.
“I think this is a big boost for our kids,” Lebanon head coach Albert Hendrix said. “Obviously we have our eyes set on doing well in the post-season, but a big congrats goes to our kids. They have played well and earned it. They practice hard every day and I am proud of them.”
Friday’s win was unlike any conference game Lebanon has had this year.
The Tigers came into the game with a 6-0 mark in conference, scoring 58 points a game and an average win margin of 15.
But Friday’s game was a more grind it out affair where Lebanon was held below 50 for just the fourth time all year (the previous three had all be losses).
“We needed a game like this and it was good for our team,” Hendrix said. “A lot of credit goes to Southmont, they had a great game plan and kept the game in the 40s. We missed a lot of shots, and that isn’t common for us, but we did a nice job defensively.
Southmont, now 10-5, dropped their second-straight game for the first time all year.
Head coach Jake Turner was proud of the way his team battled for 32 minutes.
“There are a couple plays here and there that if they go in our favor we win this game,” Turner said. “There are obviously some things to improve upon, but they are probably the best team on our schedule and we gave them all they can handle. I am proud of my guys. There are a lot of years where Southmont would come to Lebanon and it was just how much are we going to lose by. But our guys expect to win, they believe in each other and I am proud of my team.”
The defensive battle started right away.
Lebanon led 2-1 with 2:30 left in the first quarter when Hayden Hess hit a 3 for Southmont’s first field goal of the game.
The Mounties led 9-7 at the quarter, before Lebanon came back to take a 19-17 lead at the half.
Still the 19 points tied the lowest Lebanon scored in a first half all season long.
Lebanon hit just one 3 in the first half and three for the game, matching its lowest total of the season.
“They have multiple guys that can shoot it beyond the arc and our guys did a great job of knowing the game plan,” Turner said. “We take great pride in our scouting reports and our guys came in focused. They missed some shots tonight, but unfortunately we missed some too that we normally make. But our defense kept us in it. A lot of teams let their offense dictate their defense and we were struggling to score because they are well coached, physical and disciplined, but we didn’t let that carry over to the defensive end.”
Lebanon appeared to ready to pull away, going up 25-19 on a basket from Kaden Lark, but Southmont responded with a 10-0 run to take a 29-25 lead with seven minutes to go.
But when the Tigers needed to, they clamped down on defense. A three-point play from Landon Fouts and a 3-pointer from Jake Burns gave the Tigers a 31-29 lead, and Jack Ferrell scored inside to make it 33-29.
Hendrix said it was a great response to the Southmont run.
“We just wanted to keep attacking, and we did that,” Hendrix said. “We were aggressive, we just couldn’t get a lot of shots to fall. We were aggressive long enough where it paid off to get us the lead and then our defense held strong. But a lot of credit goes to Southmont for their defense.”
Southmont cut it two a few times down the stretch.
After E.J. Brewer scored to make it 35-33 with 1:30 to go Lebanon turned it over on it’s next possession, but the Mounties missed a go-ahead 3 with 45 seconds left.
Two Brewer free throws got the Mounties within two with 29.7 to go, but Landon Fouts split a pair of free throws, and the Mounties missed a tying 3 before Ferrell sealed the win with two free throws.
Southmont managed just three field goals and eight points in the last seven minutes, the last two coming on a meaningless field goal with 0.5 seconds left.
“I actually thought we passed up some looks we should have taken, but one thing I never question about our guys is that they don’t really force shots,” Turner said. “It just comes down to whether or not we make them. If we cut our turnovers down by three or four, that gives us a couple more shots and maybe we get the win. But I am really proud of my team tonight.”
Burns and Ferrell led the Tigers with 10 apiece, with Lark adding eight. Korbyn Sloggett added seven for the 14-3 Tigers.
Lebanon hosts Plainfield on Saturday night.
“We have to defend really well, even better than we did tonight,” Hendrix said. “They are a really good team and we have to be ready to go.”
Carson Chadd and Hess had 10 each for the Mounties. Brewer had nine.
Southmont travels to Owen Valley Saturday.