Despite the fact that they were playing less than 24 hours after their last game and were playing without one of their starters, the Londonderry High boys basketball team still improved to 5-0 on the season with a 67-57 win over a tough Exeter team. All 5 of Londonderry's wins have been by double digits.
The Lancers were led by the senior duo of Cody Ball and Marc Corey. Ball dropped 20 points to go with 8 rebounds, 2 blocks and also played lock down defense on Exeter sharpshooter Bryant Holmes. Holmes is a lethal shooter and has the ability to go off for 20+ points on any given night, but Ball held him to 13 points on the game (0 in 4th quarter). Corey meanwhile poured in a team-high 21 points.
"Holmes is a great player, if he gets going it can be scary" said Londonderry head coach Nate Stanton. "We put Cody on him because he has good length and has been getting better on defense."
With Londonderry's defense focused on containing Holmes, Exeter needed someone else to step up if they wanted to keep pace with the Lancers. That player was 5-foot-11 freshman guard Cody Morissette, who scored the basketball in a variety of ways en route to a team-high 21 points. Morissette is a very poised player and is cool under pressure. He's going to be a good one.
"Cody Morissette hit some big shots for us" said Exeter head coach Jeff Holmes. "James Peel and Jake Randolph crashed the boards and had some big shots for us."
Londonderry was playing without senior captain and starting wing forward Joey Kwiatkowski, who missed his second straight game with a knee injury.
"The doctor said he should be out 3-5 days" said Coach Stanton.
Ball and Corey combined to hit five 3-pointers and score 29 points in the 1st half, as the Lancers led 35-25 at halftime. However Exeter did a much better job defending them in the 2nd half, as neither of them scored a field goal in the 3rd quarter.
Brandon Radford converted an and-1 early in the 3rd quarter to give Londonderry their largest lead, 38-27. Then Jake Coleman made a great dish to Radford for a layup and a 40-29 Lancers lead.
That's when the Blue Hawks began their comeback. Peel (11 points) got the run started by rebounding his own miss and dishing it over to Randolph (8 points) for 2. That was quickly followed by a floater by Morissette and a pull-up 3-pointer in transition by Holmes to cap a 7-0 run. Coach Stanton called timeout and Exeter was all fired up as they went to the bench for the timeout. It was now 40-36 Londonderry with 3:58 left in the 3rd quarter.
Morissette buried a 3 to cut the LHS lead to 41-39. PJ Hansen was also helping the Blue hawks comeback. He blocked his second shot of the game and also grabbed a pair of tough offensive rebounds and was hustling for loose balls to keep possessions alive. Hansen might not score many points but he brings hustle and intangibles.
Ball continued to play tough defense on Holmes, as Holmes drove into the paint but Ball blocked his shot.
"Credit goes to Cody Ball" said Coach Holmes, father of Bryant Holmes. "He looked down Bryant on defense and made his life miserable. Ball might be the best player in the state."
Then Tony Duarte hit a half court buzzer-beater to cut the Londonderry lead to just 1, 47-46 after 3 quarters.
"The half court shot by Tony Duarte gave us some energy" said Coach Holmes.
That energy carried over into the 4th quarter, as Morisette drove to the rim, got fouled and hit both shots to give the Blue Hawks their first lead since it was 2-0.
Corey made a nice move with an up-fake one dribble in and then hit a fadeaway jumper and it was tied up 51-51 with 4:40 left in the 4th quarter. Peel scored inside and it was 53-51 Exeter.
That's when Londonderry went on a 9-0 run, which turned out to be the difference in the game. Freshman guard Cole Britting got the run started by making a nice steal near mid-court, racing towards the rim, getting fouled and hitting both free throws. Ball hit a pair of free throws and then Coleman went 1 of 2 from the line. Then the Lancers really turned defense into offense, forcing turnovers and turning them into quick layups on the other end. Ball had one of the layups and on the other one Ball dished it to Coleman on the 2-on-1 break for the layup and just like that it was 60-53 Londonderry with just 1:15 remaining.
Peel answered with an and-1 to cut the lead to 60-55, but Londonderry held on from there for the 67-57 win.
Londonderry is now 5-0 and next up they have Merrimack (2-2), South(1-3), Salem (1-3), Winnacunnet (0-4) and Merrimack again. There's a decent chance the Lancers could be 10-0 going into their match up with arch-rival Pinkerton in a possible Final Four preview game.
Back to the Exeter game - the Lancers went on an 8-0 run early to take an 8-2 lead, as Ball made a nice dish to Radford for a layup and then Corey took it strong to the rim on the break for an and-1. Corey capped the 8-0 run by hitting a 3. Hansen blocked 2 shots and then Peel hit a jumper to cap a 6-0 run for Exeter and now we were tied up 8-8.
ball drilled a step-back 3, and then made a great move to the rim, slashing on 3 defenders before making a double-pump finish inside with just 3 seconds left in the 1st quarter. It was 17-12 Lancers after 1.
Corey converted another and-1 early in the 2nd quarter. Both teams showed some good ball movement in the half court, resulting in a layup for Randolph on one end and a layup for Ball on the other. Morissette connected on a 3-pointer off a drive and kick by Holmes to cut the LHS lead to 22-19, but just seconds later Ball answered back with a 3 of his own. It's easy to see why Ball is headed to Saint Anselm's next year, as he really elevates and uses a high release with good form on his jumper and have tremendous leaping ability when going up for rebounds or blocks.
Ball and Corey both hit 3's late in the 2nd quarter and it was 35-25 Lancers at halftime.