By Roger Brown
There wasn't much offense in this year's Class I girls basketball championship game, but most of what there was belonged to Lebanon.
Fifth-seeded Lebanon used a stingy zone defense to defeat sixth-seeded St. Thomas 34-23 in Saturday's title game played at Southern New Hampshire University.
It was the 12th consecutive victory for Lebanon, which completed its season with an 18-4 record. The Raiders also won the Class I championship in 1982, 1993 and 2001.
"This has been an amazing run for this team," Lebanon coach Tim Kehoe said. "(The) last three or four years we may have had an injury down the stretch, but this year everything came together for us."
St. Thomas made eight of 45 attempts from the field (18 percent) and missed 17 of its 19 3-point attempts. The Saints, who were playing in the Class I championship game for the first time, finished with a 17-5 record.
"That's very uncharacteristic of us," St. Thomas coach Larry Averill said. "You have to give credit to their defense. They just took us out of our rhythm. We just weren't confident in any of our looks."
Lebanon's Casey Drake led all scorers with 15 points. The Raiders also received eight points from Kim Horne, who made a 3-pointer just before the buzzer to give Lebanon a 17-14 halftime lead. Another Horne 3-pointer made it 21-14 with remaining in the third quarter.
The Saints were within six points in the fourth quarter, but were held to one field goal in the final . Emily Sheehan led the St. Thomas offense with six points.
"We leave a player (Horne) a little early twice and they score two big baskets," Averill said. "That's how small the margin is, just that much. We scrapped, we played hard, we just couldn't get anything going."
Girls basketball: Young in Top Form
No player in the state is finishing the season stronger than Mascoma point guard Tonya Young, a 6-foot-2 senior who will play for the University of Maine next season.
Young scored 51 points - including the 2,000th point of her career - in Mascoma's final regular-season home game, and has since led the fifth-seeded Royals to Class M tournament victories over 12th-seeded Raymond (40-24) and fourth-seeded Epping (61-33).
Young, the program's all-time leading scorer, tossed in 32 points and grabbed 22 rebounds in the victory over Epping, which came in the tournament's quarterfinal round.
"She's a great player," Epping coach Casey Todd said. "She has great presence on the floor. She's a great leader. You can tell she has a desire for the game."
Mascoma (17-3) will face top-seeded Newport (20-0) in Tuesday night's semifinals at Plymouth State University. Newport defeated Mascoma twice during the regular season.
Young helped Mascoma win the Class M championship during her freshman season. The Royals lost in the championship game when Young was a sophomore, and reached the semifinals last season. Mascoma is seeking its seventh state championship since 1988.
Second-seeded Somersworth (18-2) will face third-seeded Newfound (17-2) in Tuesday's other semifinal. Somersworth defeated Belmont, last year's Class M champion, 40-31 in the quarterfinals, and Newfound eliminated sixth-seeded Gilford 55-37.
Wrestling: Saltsman Prevails Again
Concord's Tyler Saltsman joined an exclusive club when he finished first in the 130-pound weight class at last weekend's Meet of Champions. Saltsman became the third wrestler in state history to win four Meet of Champions titles.
Saltsman posted a 44-0 record during his senior season, and was 156-10 during his high school career.
Other winners at the Meet of Champions: Winnacunnet's Ricky Cahoon (103 pounds), Winnacunnet's Josh Huber (112), Salem's Aaron Kalil (119), Salem's Trevor Deardon (125), Concord's Alex Buessing (135), Keene's Cory Black (140), Bow's D.J. Meagher (145), Timberlane's Jarad Smith (152), Timberlane's Ty Sullivan (160), Timberlane's Derek Sickel (171), Londonderry's Chris Rideout (189), Londonderry's Cody Rideout (215) and Timberlane's Brian Nicoll (285).