Thursday, February 10, 2011

Londonderry Boys Lay a Whooping on West

For the second straight night I was expecting a close, hard fought basketball game between 2 evenly matched teams. And for the second straight night one team completely dominated the other. Last night it was the Portsmouth boys who crushed Souhegan 62-41 (they led by as many as 26) and tonight it was the Londonderry boys who ran Manchester West out of the gym in a 59-29 win. We are nearing the home stretch of the season, and teams are starting to separate themselves from each other. The cream is rising to the top.

On Thursday night in Londonderry, The Lancers played EXCELLENT team defense (especially 6'3" senior forward Troy Mansfield). Offensively, they were led by 6'3" senior guard Mike Colby who dropped a game-high 28 points, including 20 in the 2nd half.

"Everything was going our way tonight" said Colby, who had an exceptional game and was playing like a possible first team all-state player. "The ball was bouncing our way, and I was just feeling it tonight."

Colby hit 5 threes on night. Senior wing Ian McMullen also hit a pair of threes, and junior point guard Tyler Ball also hit one. The Lancers shot 8/14 from three-point range - that's 57%. You're going to win games when you shoot like that.

"We want to work the ball inside-outside" sad Londonderry head coach Jeff Gustafson, who had the 'interim' tag lifted from his title before the start of the season. "We try to get it in to Troy, and then he is very good at facilitating things from there. He is able to kick it out to our shooters, and they like to shoot it."

Londonderry showed excellent ball movement and team chemistry all game along. They were setting screens, moving the ball with the pass and making cuts, all of which were happening too quickly for the Blue Knights to defend. The Lancers jumped out to a 17-2 lead with 6:20 left in the 2nd quarter and never looked back.

Londonderry Defense Was Impressive
West scored 2 points in the entire 1st quarter! They only scored 29 for the game, yikes! This was a very impressive performance for the Londonderry defense, and a disappointing showing for the West offense. Blue Knights junior wing Aaron Martin (11 points) made some plays, but other than that it was definitely an off night for this team. Senior point guard Samy Abdalla came off the bench and with him out of the game his team went down 10-2 right off the bat. And once Abdalla did enter the game he was a non-factor.

"Samy just had his appendix taken out" said Manchester West first-year head coach Dan Bryson. "He has been out for the last 3 games before tonight. He definitely wasn't himself tonight."

The Lancers have a nice 7 player rotation. They all play together well, they all know their roles on the team, and they all play defense. Colby was supported offensively by Mansfield and McMullen. Both Mansfield and McMullen are also very good defenders. Mansfield was matched up with West senior forward Jose Gonzalez. They are 2 very similar players, both in the way they play and their size. Their both 6'3" wide bodied kids who are physical in the paint, get after it on the boards and have nifty moves in the low post. But Mansfield (who is also a beast on the football field) definitely got the better of the match-up this evening.

"Jose had a tough night for us" said coach Bryson. "He was missing some shots he normally makes, and then he wasn't getting the calls either. So he started get get a little down on himself and that didn't help."

McMullen meanwhile is a player whose game compliments Colby's well. When a defense focus too much on Colby he is able to kick it over to McMullen. McMullen has a high release on his jump shot, which allows him to get a shot off even over taller defenders. He is also a very tough defender.

Ball and senior forward Nick Martinez also played well in supporting roles. Ball is a solid floor general who is unselfish, distributing the ball well and can also knock down the outside shot if left open. After going up 23-5 in the 2nd quarter, West was able to get back in the game, ending the 1st half on a 10-2 run and headed into the locker room down 25-15.

"I thought we backed down in the 2nd quarter" said Coach Gustafson. "We were up by a lot ad let them back in it. We learned from the Central game though, and we handled the defensive pressure better in this game. It helps when you make as many shots as we did" said Gustafson, smiling."

Londonderry was all over the boards, out-rebounding West by a wide margin. They were quicker to the basketball and were a more disciplined team all game. Off the bench J.R. Winn and Andre Simmund also played well.

"Our guard play really stepped up and we killed them on the boards" said Gustafson. "I also like our bench guys. (J.R. and Andre) might not be as good at scoring the ball as the starters, but they bring a lot of energy off the bench for us. They move the ball on offense, they play hard and they defend."

Londonderry was only 5-5 going into this game but they did NOT play like it. Tonight they played like a team that could make a run to UNH. Yes, beating West is not exactly the same as beating BG, Memorial, Central, Trinity, Merrimack, Salem or Dover. But the Lancers dd beat Memorial earlier in the year. These guys are clearly playing good basketball right now. I expect them to be a top 8 seed and possibly make a run in the playoffs.

As for West, they have a lot to work on. The feeling among many in the Londonderry gym this evening was that the Blue Knights only get up for 'City Games' or home games. They will have to become more consistent if they want to go anywhere.

"It's back to the drawing board for us" said Coach Bryson. "I'm trying to motivate them. But at some point they have to become self-motivated. We just did not show up tonight, and they completely outplayed us."

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