Saturday, January 15, 2011

Londonderry Girls Hand Rival Pinkerton 1st Loss

Pinkerton was unbeaten going into this game. Londonderry lost by 18 in their last contest. But after watching the two teams square off you really have to wonder how either of those statements could be true.

The Londonderry girls basketball team came out focused, executing well on both ends of the floor. They not only became the first team to beat Pinkerton, but they also avenged their loss to the Astros in last year's Class L semi-finals. Behind a well balanced scoring attack led by senior forward Savanna Butterfield, the Londonderry girls basketball team bounced back from their 53-35 loss to Memorial on Tuesday night to defeat Pinkerton 52-33 on Friday night in Derry.

What a Difference 3 Days Makes!
Just 3 days ago Londonderry was licking their wounds after getting smoked by a good Memorial team. Before that game many people (including myself) were under the impression that Winnacunnet and Londonderry were the clear-cut 2 best teams in girls Division I. So Tuesday's game was VERY surprising, although Memorial was my preseason #3 team in the division.

However on Friday night Londonderry played MUCH more like the preseason favorite many had them penciled in as, instead of like the team that got beat bad by Memorial on Tuesday.

The bottom line is many of the teams have been inconsistent. Londonderry can look like world beaters one night but lay an egg against Memorial. You would think Memorial is now the second best team, but they lost to Timberlane, who is having trouble beating anybody these days. The one team in the division that has been consistent, and hasn't played a bad game yet is Winnacunnet. Nobody has come within 14 points of them, and until they do you have to consider the Warriors the definite favorite to win a 5th straight title.

Ok, back to the Pinkerton/Londonderry game...

Hot Start for Lancers
Londonderry jumped out to a quick 13-0 lead in this game. Pinkerton then had to battle uphill the rest of the way, and the Lancer's lead only grew. Leading the way for Londonderry was forwards Butterfield and Catherine Cloutier, and guards Allie Moloney and Jaymi Uphold (all 4 players are seniors). They had some good ball movement, Butterfield, Cloutier and Moloney were all able to get open looks and knock them down. Meanwhile Uphold made some strong drives to the basket and also played exceptional defense.

Defensively, the Lancers are known for pressing their opponents full court all game long. Despite the fact that Pinkerton has a solid back court led by senior Katherine Harris, Danielle Kimball and Michelle Reid, the press was effective in taking the Astros out of the offensive rhythm and comfort zone. The Londonderry defense really did a nice job of pressuring all 5 of the Pinkerton offensive players and preventing them from getting any good looks inside. The only looks the Astros were getting were from long range, and they struggled shooting the three all game long as they went 4/16 from deep (25%).

Harris (9 points) made a nice crossover dribble and the pull-up jumper early in the 2nd quarter. But soon after that Londonderry took a 22-8 lead, their largest of the game to that point. Kimball is normally one of the best shooters in Division I, but she struggled on this night, going scoreless and shooting 0/8 from long distance. Reid, junior forward Sarah Goodwin and freshman guard Colleen Fortier played well for Pinkerton. But the Lancers were just too big, too talented and too deep for the Astros to handle on this night.

Team Effort for Londonderry
It's no secret that legendary head coach John Fagula's Lancers are a very deep, talented team. They led this game 40-18 after 3 quarters, and end up winning it 52-33. It was never really a game in the 2nd half. But his squad showed a very balanced scoring attack, as Butterfield had a game-high 11 points. Coincidentally, 11 is the same number of Londonderry players who got in the scoring column in this contest.

In addition to Butterfield, Moloney, Cloutier and Uphold, others who impressed were freshman sensation Aliza Simpson, junior guard Lindsey Bolduc, and senior forwards Daniele Crutcher and Christina Pescia. Simpson was crafty with the basketball, doing a nice job of running the point (and also playing the 2 at times) and also played some very tough, pressure defense. All 9 of these girls for the Lancers would start on pretty much any other team in the state. Of course you need that kind of depth when you push the ball on offense and press full court on defense like they do.

Butterfield and Harris Were 2 Best Players on the Floor
Not only were they the 2 best players on the floor, but they just might be the 2 best players in the division. They are 2 very different types of players, though. Butterfield is 5'10" and plays inside, while Harris is a 5'7" point guard. Both players will certainly play at the next level, though.

Butterfield is a tenacious rebounder (she grabbed 9 boards to go with her 11 points) who is tough, athletically gifted and has a deadly mid-range game. She made 3 plays in the 1st half of this game that showed that great athleticism. On one she caught the basketball around the right elbow, and in one fluid motion she was able to jump up and while in the air she turned and squared up to the basket. Butterfield then released the shot which sailed through the air and into the net. Later she showed athleticism and leaping ability by going up for a rebound against a taller Pinkerton player. She jumped high up in the air, then tipped the ball backwards to herself. Then she caught it and once again all in one motion she was able to turn, square up and hit the jump shot. Soon after that Harris cut to the basket and appeared to have an open lay-up, but Butterfield came out of nowhere from the weak side to block the shot.

Harris meanwhile did a very nice job of handling the basketball and distributing it, even against the intensive defensive pressure that Londonderry brought. She made some nifty dribble-drive moves where she was able to slice through the Lancer defense and get into the lane and make plays, both for herself and her teammates. Defensively, Harris once again showed that she is the best defender in the state by pressuring the basketball all over the floor and also playing good help-side defense.

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