Former DWC coach in hoop heaven in Lebanon

Photo courtesy of Daniel Webster College Former Daniel Webster and Dartmouth coach Dave Faucher is enjoying life as an assistant with Lebanon, which faces Hollis Brookline in Wednesday's Division II semifinals..

Dave Faucher was a happy guy on Monday. Why? Basketball practice at Lebanon High School was set for later in the day.

Faucher, the former Daniel Webster College and Dartmouth College men’s basketball coach, is enjoying life as an assistant coach with the odds-on Division II favorite Lebanon boys basketball team.

“I enjoy the journey,” said Faucher, who began helping out last year but wasn’t on the bench during games until increasing his commitment this year. “I can’t wait to get to practice.

“I tell the kids, enjoy the journey. Sure, everybody wants to win a championship. But you create so many memories, so much that you can remember. Let’s enjoy practice today, enjoy your teammates, the rivalries. Everybody forgets the great games, the great moments during the season.”

Faucher has played a big role with Lebanon, which last year lost to this year’s Division I favorite, Portsmouth, in the finals, 43-29. The Raiders’ best player, last year’s Player of the Year K. J. Matte, is headed to Bowdoin next year, and that’s where Faucher’s son, Scott, is an assistant coach.

Faucher has some interesting thoughts on Wednesday’s Division II semis, when the top seeded, 18-1 Raiders take on the only team to beat them during the regular season, No. 4 Hollis Brookline (15-5). The Raiders downed the other local in the semis, No. 2 Milford (18-1), which is slated to take on No. 3 Coe-Brown Northwood in the first semifinal at 5:30.

“Hollis and Milford are both good teams,” Faucher said. “They’re good defensively. Hollis is really strong inside. They’ve got (Matt) Simco and No. 44 (6-3 Matt Dowling) down low and they’ve got great balance. It’s going to be a war.”

Faucher likes Lebanon’s chances, of course, but says there’s one thing he doesn’t like about the Raiders.

“They’re great kids, and they’re great basketball players,” he said. “In my mind, we’re a little too perimeter oriented. A little to 3-dependent. Hollis is really strong inside.”

Matte is likely the team’s best 3-point shooter, and Kevin Milliken is a great scorer. Matte, though, missed the 61-51 Hollis Brookline win over the Raiders at Hollis with a bad ankle but he’s back.

“He’s not 100 percent,” Faucher said, “but he’s getting stronger and stronger. We’re playing him off the ball so he doesn’t have as much stress bringing it up.”

Faucher likes the Spartans, too. Lebanon beat Milford, 47-42, in a tough game up north. Faucher loves Spartant senior forwards Ryan Banuskevich and Shane Winnett.

“Banuskevich is a very good basketball player,” he said. “He’s could end up being Player of the Year. And Winnett is just a tough matchup. He can play inside, outside, he just makes shots.”

The problem for Milford is Winnett missed Saturday’s quarterfinal win over John Stark with an ankle injury suffered in practice late last week; Milford coach Dan Murray says he’s questionable for Wednesday but would hope to have him back for Saturday’s finals if the Spartans get that far.

“It’s tough,” Faucher said. “We’re always one ankle, one foul situation away from being in trouble. Nobody’s really that deep.”

But Faucher, a longtime college coach, is enjoying working at the high school level as an assistant because the Raider players are students of the game.

“There’s not much difference,” Faucher said. “This team can play a lot of different ways. That helps. I didn’t want to go remedial, I know that.”

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It’s no shock that Bedford went on to with the Division I hockey championship. The shock was that the Bulldogs blew away both Bishop Guertin and Concord by a combined 12-0 score in the semis and finals. In the title game vs. Concord, the ‘Dogs grabbed a 3-0 lead six minutes into the game and that was that as they cruised, 7-0.

“I thought the potential was there that (Bedford) could handle us pretty good,” Tide coach Duncan Walsh told the Concord Monitor after the game, “but I didn’t think they would. I thought we’d play better and we just made too many mistakes.”

Bedford, now a two-time champion, loses seven seniors including what proved to be its the top line of Griffin Gagne-John McDonough-Jay Roberto. That’s giving others, like Bishop Guertin, some hope for next season.

Guertin loses four seniors, including captain Jordan Caito, good two-way player Chase Blazak, valuable forward Austin King and backup goalie Thomas Norton. But, barring any junior or prep school defections (always a possibility), there’s a good core returning.

“We’ll be back, we only have four seniors on this team,” Guertin coach Gary Bishop said. “All five defensemen will be back.”

The other surprise in the other No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup, Keene vs. Bow, was the Falcons’ 4-0 shutout of the Blackbirds in the Division II final. Keene was the heavy favorite all season, but the Falcons’ eight seniors had lost in the finals in 2014 and 2016 and this was their final shot, and they made the most of it.

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When Saturday’s Division I girls hoop final between Bedford and Bishop Guertin at Southern New Hampshire University had been switched from 4 p.m. to 2 p.m. last Thursday, many felt it was because the NHIAA wanted to placate Bedford, whose hockey team would be in the 4:30 p.m. finals.

But in reality, that wasn’t the case. Bedford hadn’t yet even won its hoop semifinal vs. Pinkerton. It was done because a huge crowd was expected for the 7:30 p.m. Divsion III boys hoop final between Kearsarge and Stevens. And officials were right. By 5 p.m., stands were filling up – yes, 5 p.m. – and there was a line up the runway outside the gym. In fact, SNHU and the NHIAA set up an “overflow” room where fans who couldn’t get into the game could watch it on a TV feed. Amazing.