By: Jeremy Leveille
We're only a week into the season but Friday night's Bedford vs. Londonderry game may be the game of the year. Possibly the 2 best teams in the state, the game was played at a high level with high intensity, a packed crowd which made for a great atmosphere and a Bedford team that made a resilient comeback and last second shot to pull out the win.
Bedford trailed by as many as 10, and were down by 8 points in the 3rd quarter. But sophomore guard Alexis Meservey (first year varsity player) hit the shot of the game, a 3-pointer off a pass from Bri Purcell to cut the Londonderry lead to 52-51 with 35 seconds left. Jackie Luckhardt missed the front end of a 1-and-1 for the Lancers, and Bedford called timeout with 17.6 seconds left. The Bulldogs ran a terrific set play, with ball movement and player movement freeing Purcell up with room on the right wing. Purcell drove inside, finding 6-foot sophomore forward Jenoyce Laniyan, who made a spin move and power dribble before laying it in on the left side of the rim with 3 seconds left, sending the Bedford fans into a frenzy. A last second desperation heave from way downtown by Kelsey Coffey (game-high 27 points) was no good and Bedford wins 53-52.
"We kept our heads up, and I told them we got this" said Nicole Tucci, who had a team-high 12 points. "We bonded as a team and found our groove. We're a really deep team and push each other in practice. I knew Alexis could shoot, she went in there and did her job."
An amazing game, between 2 very good teams who gave it there all for 32 minutes. Good fundamentals, good ball movement, tough defense and a great atmosphere with a packed crowd. You really can't ask for much more from a high school basketball game. It's hard to belive this was only the third game of the season, because it definitely felt a lot more like a state championship.
"I don't want this to get to their heads" said Bedford head coach Sue Thomas. "We're a very young team. But we didn't play particularly good defense and still pulled out the win, which says a lot for a young team. Brodeur and Alexis came off the bench and hit some big 3's for us and we also went bigger on Coffey which helped. We switched Maddie Blake and then Courtney O'Connell on her."
Coffey was sensational, with a game-high 27 points, plus 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Coffey was hitting step-back 3's with a hand in her face, she showed a great hesitation dribble-drive move, a euro-step and the ability to finish in traffic with either hand. Most impressive is her poise and calmness out there, it's like she doesn't even break a sweat. Coffey is 5-foot-9 and she can play the 1,2 or the 3. Not bad for a kid who's only a sophomore.
"She's a great offensive player" said Londonderry first-year head coach Nick Theos.
Londonderry also got strong games inside from the duo of 5-foot-11 senior forward Tara Burke and 6-foot-2 junior forward Ashley Berube. Burke had a strong 1st half while Berube took over in the 2nd half but together they created match up problems for Bedford, especially with the Bulldog's big Laniyan in foul trouble. Both Burke and Berube posted double-doubles, with Berube totaling 13 points (9 in the 2nd half) and Burke finishing with 11 points (7 in the 1st half).
"We know that we'll have a size advantage inside on most teams we face and we tried to use that tonight" said Coach Theos.
Londonderry was playing without 2 key returning players - Brittany 'Big Shot' Roche, who hit the game-winning shot in both of the Lancer's Final Four wins last year and Noelle Lambert, who brings toughness and is one of the team's better defenders. Both players are seniors.
"Bedford played outstanding" said Theos. "But we did it to ourselves. We had so many unforced errors. The girls are really down for losing a close game. But we made mental mistakes, we will learn from them and that's what the beginning part of the season is for."
Londonderry's bigs are going to give D-I teams problems all season, but so will the Bedford back court of Tucci and Purcell. These 2 (both juniors) have been playing together for a long time and have great chemistry on the court. They can play the game at a fast pace and a high level. What really separates these 2 though is that they are very smart fundamentally sound players who don't make mistakes - they simply do not turn the ball over. When you have a back court like that you're going to win a lot of games.
You do have to give Londonderry credit though, because while Tucci and Purcell took care of the basketball it's not like they torched them offensively. Tucci had 12 points and Purcell had 6 (plus 7 assists). Overall the Lancers did a good job defending them and making other players step up to beat them. But Bedford is so deep, they have so many weapons and move the ball so well, they showed you can't just focus on stopping Tucci and Purcell. In the 1st half 3 different kids hit 3-pointers, all 3 kids came off the bench and they were 2 sophomores and a freshman (Caroline Brodeur, Meservey and Mia Roy). Plus you had Courtney O'Connell with 11 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks. O'Connell really stepped up, especially with Laniyan in foul trouble so O'Connell had to battle inside for most of the game with Burke and Berube. Then in the 4th quarter O'Connell defended Coffey and did a great job on her. O'Connell has good length but also had the quickness to stay with Coffey. O'Connell crashed the boards, defended well, ran the floor and showed a soft touch on her jumper in the 10-15 foot range.
Bedford trailed by as many as 8 (32-24) in the 3rd quarter, but Purcell hit a big 3 from the right wing, and it was 41-39 after 3. Then Tucci hit an 18-footer (nobody in NH has a better 15-18 foot mid-range jumper) to tie it up 41-41. Berube quickly scored inside to put Londonderry back on top 43-41. Purcell made a great reverse layup in traffic while avoiding Berube's attempt to block her shot. Coffey answered right back with a tough bucket inside to put the Lancers ahead 46-43. Tucci blocked Berube inside, but then Katherine Wells drove inside and dished to Berube for 2 and a 48-43 Londonnderry lead. O'Connell then banked in a shot in close off a dish by Tucci to cut it to 48-47 LHS but then Berube countered with a strong finish inside and it was 50-47 Lancers.