By: Jeremy Leveille
Londonderry and Nashua North had identical 15-4 records coming into their quarterfinal match up on Saturday evening. It should have been a close game, right? Wrong. The Lancers completely dominated the boards all game long, led by the strong rebounding of Casey Evans, Taylor Collins and Brittany Roche. Evans finished with 20 points and 15 rebounds.
The Lancers got a ton of 2nd chance points and fast-break points, with many of them coming from Evans as well as junior point guard Aliza Simpson. Simpson had a game-high 31 points on the night to go with 4 rebounds and 6 assists. Many say the mid-range jumper is a lost art, but judging by her performance in Saturday's game it appears as though Simpson has perfected that art.
Londonderry is much bigger up front than North and the Lancer bigs played with a purpose in this game. Not only that, but the one big that North has who can actually match up with them (Brittany Desroche) was playing through an injury and was also in foul trouble for much of the game.
North guard Taylor Choate had a great game with 19 points, 7 rebounds and 4 steals. She is only a sophomore and she should be a first team all-state player in D-I. But when you are getting killed on the boards that badly and allowing arguably the best player in the state to have that many open shots from 10-15 feet away it is tough to win.
Coach Fagula's squad led 21-14 after 1 quarter of play, and they gradually increased their lead as the game went on. It was a combination of Simpson hitting mid-range jumpers, Simpson connected with Evans with some nice dishes for layups, or Evans grabbing offensive boards and putting them back in. Simpson and Evans were playing off each other very well in this game. It was like watching Jamie Sherburne and Meghan Green from BG. Oh wait, isn't that who Londonderry is going to play against in the D-I semi-finals on Wednesday night? Oh snap!
Back to the North / Londonderry game.
Simpson banked in a jumper from 12 feet away after yet ANOTHER Londonderry offensive rebound, followed by a 3-pointer by junior shooting guard Jamie King (7 points which all came in the 2nd half). That gave the Lancers their largest lead at 39-26. Evans then converted a put-back (it was the team's second offensive rebound on that possession alone).
Give the North girls credit though, as they were undersized, banged up, playing shorthanded (starting guard Dezi Okari did not suit up) but they still battled back. The Titans went on a run, and after a couple of great plays by freshman guard Marie LaPlante the Lancers lead was now just 45-39. LaPlante made a good dish over to Emmary Nelson for a bucket, then pushed the ball quickly up the floor and hit a runner in the lane. LaPlante, Choate and Genevieve Gosselin are the three players who North head coach Ricky Oliver left in for virtually the entire game. It is easy to see why though, as all three are very valuable and do many differnet things to help the team. All three of them play extremely hard and with a lot of energy - they left it all out on the floor. LaPlante and Choate in particular had a ton of shots that just barely rimmed out on them, and if not for a couple bounces here or there this could have been a much different game.
After North cut the lead to 45-39, Londonderry scored 5 quick points to go up 50-39 heading to the 4th as Simpson hit 2 more pull-up jumpers. Simpson did pick up her fourth foul though, and if she had fouled out early in the 4th quarter it culd have opened the door for a possible North comeback. But unfortunately for the Titans that did not happen.
The game got away from North in the 4th, as they Simpson & Evans show continued. Taylor Choate scored 6 quick points with some tough drives and nifty finishes, but it wasn't enough. Londonderry cruised to a 73-55 win to punch their ticket to SNHU for the semi-finals.