In an emotional battle for both teams, the Keene High girls basketball team fell in heartbreaking fashion to Lebanon Friday, 53-49, in a game that came down to the final few minutes.
The Blackbirds had a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, but ran into foul trouble down the stretch and saw the lead dwindle late and disappear.
Four of Keene’s starters had fouled out by the end of the game.
“Gotta learn to close out,” said Keene head coach Stacey Massiah. “That was our biggest thing.”
Sophomore Marin Shaffer led the Blackbirds with 11 points, nine coming in the second half.
“I couldn’t have done it without the rest of my team,” Shaffer said. “Everybody did amazing tonight. I just can’t wait to get [Lebanon] again next week.”
The teams play again on Wednesday.
Seniors Kaitlyn Lemnah and Kirsten Farhm, celebrating their senior night, scored 10 and seven respectively.
“It was emotional,” Lemnah said. “But overall I think we played a good game. I’m proud of the team and the energy that we brought.”
Junior Elyza Mitchell finished with seven as well.
It was a tight first quarter, with neither team really finding any momentum offensively. Keene found some life after a bucket from sophomore Delilah Hatheway late in the first quarter, but Lebanon responded with a three-pointer at the buzzer to take a 15-9 lead after the first.
A slow start to the second quarter found Lebanon up 17-11 about midway though, and that’s when Keene really started to gel as a unit.
Action started to pick up in the latter half of the second quarter, with Keene climbing back and the energy level in the limited-capacity gym picking up.
In what would’ve been a “blow the roof off the gym” moment in a normal year, freshman Ivy Keating hit a three pointer with two seconds left in the half to tie the game at 22.
It sure sounded like a filled gym at that point, though.
“It just goes to show her confidence level,” Massiah said of the freshman. “She’s a shooter, so we tell her to shoot the ball. That was huge for us as a team and for her.”
The Blackbirds scored the final seven points of the half, all in the last two minutes.
The third quarter was back-and-forth to start, and Keene found some momentum late in the quarter, taking a five-point lead with three minutes to go.
Sophomore Molly Chamberlain, who got the start for the Blackbirds on Friday, scored five consecutive points in that time to get the offense rolling late.
“[Chamberlain] didn’t disappoint,” Massiah said. “The offensive rebounding, the energy she had, it really shows that at any given day I can put any of these girls in this spot and they’ll bring their talents to the table.”
Keene’s defense continued to hold strong and the Blackbirds were up 37-27 heading into the fourth.
A physical start to the quarter saw fouls galore, and, all of a sudden, Keene found itself in foul trouble.
Both teams were in the bonus and there were still six minutes to play.
Lebanon started to inch back into the game, shrinking Keene’s lead to three with three minutes on the clock.
That’s when Farhm fouled out, receiving an ovation from the Keene crowd as she made her way to the bench.
Up three with a minute and a half to go, a controversial foul call on Mitchell, her fifth, sent Lebanon to the line. Those two free throws made it a one-point game.
Lebanon hit another bucket with under a minute to play to give them the 50-49 lead and put them up for good.
Keene fouled late to try and get another shot but couldn’t get the look as the Raiders held on for the win.
“Another steppingstone, another learning curve for our girls,” Massiah said. “It was an emotional roller coaster, that fourth quarter.”
Compared to Wednesday’s loss to Conant, the Keene girls played much more in sync in only their second game of the season.
“Once they got comfortable, they saw that they can compete with Lebanon,” Massiah said. “Once the jitters were gone, they saw what they can do.”
“It just shows that we’re willing to work together,” Farhm said. “And we’re willing to see where each other’s flaws are and where we can pick up from that and get better, and that made a big difference from Wednesday.”
“We’re definitely a young team, but we definitely want to win,” Lemnah said. “We’re willing to work as hard as we can in practice and on the court in the games. It’s all coming together.”
Keene turns around quickly and travels to Conant Saturday for a rematch with the Orioles. Tip-off is at 4:30 p.m.
“I told them to sleep it off tonight, get on the bus, head over to Conant and take the frustrations out on them,” Massiah said with a laugh.