Bishop Guertin traveled to Londonderry on Tuesday night to take on the Lancers in a battle between 2 of the favorites in Division I girls basketball. Overall it was a pretty even match up. What was the difference? Ashley Berube. The 6-foot-2 junior forward dropped a game-high 15 points, plus ripped down 14 rebounds and blocked 8 shots. She was dominant on both ends of the floor, as Londonderry pulls out a big win. The Lancers only led by 1 point at halftime and by 1 after 3 quarters, but they outscored the Cardinals 16-9 in the 4th quarter.
"A lot of teams have bigs, but I haven't seen one yet who is as big, athletic and can run the floor like Ashley" said said Londonderry first-year head coach Nick Theos. "She runs the floor, gets the opponent in foul trouble, opens up looks on the outside for our shooters. Defensively she blocks shots and rebounds. She was behind some people last year for us, but this year I think you're going to see her make a name for herself around the state."
With Berube and fellow bigs Brittany Roche and Tara Burke the Lancers had a decided size advantage inside, and taking away the paint as a possible scoring area for BG. Londonderry was forcing BG to take outside shots but they weren't falling. BG was also unable to speed the game up and get out in transition enough.
"Berube was tough" lamented Bishop Guertin head coach Jeremy Faulkner. "We knew they would play zone. W worked on a lot of stuff to do against the zone but we didn't do it. We didn't engage the zone. We were doing too much watching, rather than hitting the open gaps."
BG needed to speed the game up and attack the rim before the Londonderry bigs got to the paint, but they were never really able to get their transition game going. The Lancers did a nice job of controlling the tempo, keeping it a half court game and getting back on defense. Overall it was a defensive battle, with lots of turnovers and missed layups by both teams. Due to the slow pace of the game, there was never too much flow and neither team got in much of an offensive rhythm, as both teams were cold shooting from the outside.
"We had to be good defensively" said Coach Theos. "We weren't great offensively, but we made big shots. Kelsey (Coffey) and Brittany (Roche) hit 3's down the stretch and (Ashley Berube) had a big shot."
The pace picked up at least a little bit in the 2nd half. It was 19-18 Londonderry at halftime. Berube scored inside early in the 3rd quarter. On the other end of the floor she had a block. On the next defensive possession for the Lancers junior guard Kate Balcom made a nice block of her own as the Londonderry block party continued. Making matters worse for BG was that their one 6-footer Abbi Field to go against the Lancers' three 6-footers picked up her 4th foul with 5:00 left in the 3rd quarter.
Finally BG started to create some transition opportunities, as they broke the Londonderry press which led to an and-1 finish for senior guard Megan Kerutis which was also the 4th foul for Roche. Then Kerutis (tam-high 9 points) was left open from the elbow for a jumper to cut the Lancers' lead to 26-24. Coffey hit a big 3-pointer to push the lead back to 29-24 with 2:20 left in the 3rd quarter.
Londonderry sat a couple of their bigs at the end of the 3rd quarter and with the paint opened up BG took advantage. The Cardinals converted a pair of quick put-backs to end the 3rd quarter (one by Bri Nordengren and the other by Meghan Cramb) to close within 29-28 after 3 quarters.
Coffey (8 points) hit another 3 to start the 4th quarter, but Molly Dee (7 points) answered right back with a 3-pointer of her own to cut the Londonderry lead back down to 1, 32-31 (both Coffey and Dee are only sophomores).
Then Berube really started to take over. She made a nice post move with a power dribble, turn and strong finish for 2. Then on the other end Berube blocked yet another shot. On the other end Londonderry came up with yet another offensive rebound. BG was undersized in this game, and it's tough going against a player inside like Berbe especially when your only big is in foul trouble. Still, BG gave up too many offensive rebounds - they need to box out better.
"This was a big game and we are young and inexperienced" said Coach Faulkner, who played 6 sophomores and 1 freshman. "Still, we wre in it right till the end with them. Luckily this wasn't the state tournament."
Then came a scary moment for BG, as Kerutis went up for a rebound, came down hard and was slow to get up with an apparent shoulder injury. Kerutis left the game, did not return and after the game was icing her shoulder.
"I'm okay" said Kerutis. "I'll just have to wait and see tomorrow where the pain is."
Things continued to go the Lancers' way, as 'Big Shot Brittany' Roche hit a big 3-pointer from the left wing off the catch to make it 39-34 Londonderry with 3:00 left in regulation.
Time was running out on BG and they were going cold offensively. Then Abby Streeter hit a clutch 3 for the Cardinals to cut the Londonderry lead to 40-37 with 1:30 remaining. BG was extending their defense and picking up their pressure on 'D' to try and force a steal. But the Lancers did a nice job of staying cool under pressure, eventually getting the ball inside to Berube who made a great move with an up-fake and strong and-1 finish. That made it 43-37 Londonderry with just 40 seconds left in the 4th quarter.
If Berube didn't ice it with that score she iced it on the other end, blocking her eighth shot of the game. Jackie Luckhardt added a pair of free throws and the Lancers win 45-37.
"I was just trying to help us out inside because we had a size advantage - we had taller players" Berube explained. "When I see someone driving I try to get over there, help out and block it."
It was the Lancers' other big, Burke who started the game off with a quick and-1 finish right off the opening tip. Luckhardt hustled for a nice steal and raced to the rim for a transition layup as Londonderry jumped on top 6-0 in a low-scoring 1st quarter. Berube came over from the weak side for a blocked shot, but then Cramb finally got BG on the board with 5:16 left in the 1st quarter by hitting a 3.
Berube continued to play well on both ends of the floor, running the floor hard in transition, catching a pass right in stride and finishing with her left hand. Luckhardt then made a nice pass, throwing a laser from mid-court over to Balcom who was left wide open underneath the basket for a layup. That score gave LHS their largest lead of the game, 14-6 with 57.2 seconds left in the 1st quarter. It was 14-8 Londonderry after 1.
There was lots of turnovers and missed shots early in the 2nd quarter, as well as lots of deflected passes which means tough defense. The Lancers got out on the break with Balcom finishing to make it 17-10. BG responded with a 6-0 run, as Nordengren finished a layup off a nice dish by Field. BG then quickly stole the ball, got it ahead to Kerutis who raced towards the rim but was fouled with LHS being called for an intentional foul. Kerutis made both free throws plus BG got possession back.
Field and Roche both sat towards the end of the 2nd quarter with 3 fouls. Balcom hustled back on defense for a nice block. Freshman forward Caroline Hoffer converted a put-back, and it was 19-18 Lancers at halftime.
It does no seem like Bedford and Londonderry have separated themselves as the teams to beat in D-I girls hoops. We could be in for a rematch of last year's title game. But don't count BG out of it just yet. They are still a very deep team with strong guards and good team speed.