In a tough, physical, hard fought game the Londonderry High girls basketball team improved to 12-1 on the season by defeating rivals Pinkerton 44-39. The Lancers have now won 10 in a row and their only loss was by 1 point to Bedford (a loss which they avenged a couple weeks ago by defeating the Bulldogs 46-28).
Friday night's win vs. Pinkerton did not come easy. Though the Lancers did leave for virtually the entire way, it was either a 1 or 2 possession game for most of the game and the Astros were right in it until the end. At halftime Londonderry was only up by 1, 14-13. The difference was sophomore guard Kelsey Coffey - after going scoreless in the 1st half the 5-foot-9 sharpshooter caught fire, drilling five 3-pointers en route to a game-high 17 points in the 2nd half.
"Our little secret is that we want teams to double us inside" said Londonderry High first-year head coach Nick Theos. "As soon as they start putting 2 kids on Ashley (Berube) it puts a smile on my face. I'm comfortable with Kelsey, Brittany (Roche) and the other shooters we have."
Once the 2nd half started Coffey wasted no time in heating up from the outside. She immediately drilled a 3 off the catch to make it 17-13 LHS. Pinkerton standout senior wing Val Martin (8 points) made a tough drive, took a bump and still banked in a leaner. Then her teammate Marissa Stacy hit a 3 from the top of the key to cut the Lancers' lead to 19-18.
Coffey hit another 3, this time from the right wing off the catch. She had to much room on that one, her and Roche are two players you simply cannot leave open.
"Marissa Stacy's job was to help out on Berube inside but also cover Coffey" said Pinkerton Academy head coach Lani Buskey. "We were asking a lot of her. I thought we did a good job on Berube, no complaints there. But when we focus on Berube it leaves Coffey open and she can shoot it. It's tough to guard both of them."
Jaime Caron (team-high 10 points) was helping to keep Pinkerton in it, as she took 1 dribble along the baseline and flipped it in for an and-1. That cut the Londonderry lead to 22-21 with 4:35 left in the 3rd quarter. Caron also made a good plahy defensively to force a jump ball.
"Jaime Caron gets the job done, she works her butt off for us" said Coach Buskey.
Stacy made a nice dish to junior forward Sara McLeman for a layup as the Astros took the lead 23-22. Then Stacy made a good hustle play on help side defense by attempting to strip the ball from Berube and force a tie-up. But then Roche and Coffey hit back-to-back 3's, with Roche's shot coming off a baseline out of bounds play and Coffey being left open from the left wing. Martin answered right back with a 3-pointer of her own to cut the Lancers' lead to 28-26.Caron then made a nice hustle play, pulling down an offensive rebound over Berube who is 5 inches taller than her. Caron came down on the floor with the ball and when no teammates were open she made a smart move by calling timeout. It was anyone's game as we headed to the 4th quarter, with Londonderry leading 29-26.
Senior guard Melissa Martel buried a 3 to start the 4th quarter and we were all tied up 29-29. But then LHS went on a 10-2 run. Coffey hit 2 more 3's, senior wing Noelle Lambert banked in an 18-footer and senior forward Tara Burke converted a fast-break layup. As a result, the Lancers now had a commanding 39-31 lead with 4:07 left in regulation. After a pair of free throws by Coffey it was 41-34 Londonderry with just 1:38 remaining. LHS held on from there for the 44-39 win.
"I thought my girls showed up tonight, they stuck to the game plan" said Coach Buskey.
Points were hard to come by in the 1st half. Both teams played good defense, but mostly it was a combination of poor shooting, turnovers and nerves from playing in a high pressure rivalry game. Also, the officials called it very tight in the 1st half and as a result there wasn't much rhythm or flow to the game.
Pinkerton was pressing full court and playing man-to-man defense in the half court. Berube had 2 blocks early on. The 6-foot-2 junior forward finished with 6 points, 9 rebounds and 7 blocks. With 4:56 left in the 1st quarter the game was still scoreless. Both teams were getting some good looks, they just weren't falling.
"Those first four minutes you were looking at nerves in a big rivalry game" explained Coach Buskey. "I actually wish we got up to play every team as much as we do to play Londonderry."
Finally the scoreless tie was broken, as Burke scored inside to make it 2-0 Lancers. Then Roche scored inside off a nice extra pass by Coffey. Stacy got the Astros on the board, hitting a 3-pointer with Berube closing out on her. After a put-back by Burke it was 6-3 Londonderry. Berube and junior guard Jackie Luckhardt both picked up their second foul, but after a layup by Roche off a baseline out of bounds play it was 8-5 LHS after a low scoring 1st quarter of play.
"It's a Londonderry / Pinkerton thing, it's a big deal" said Coach Theos. "It got in our heads, especially in the 1st half."
Berube went back in with 2 fouls and blocked her fifth shot of the game. Then Berube scored inside for 2, as the Lancers took an 11-5 lead with 5:30 left in the 2nd quarter. Pinkerton responded, as 5-foot-9 freshman guard Nicolette Arnold hit a 3-pointer to cut the lead to 11-8.
Martin made a nice weak side block. Arnold hit a 15-footer and then a pair of free throws. She had 7 points off the bench in the 2nd quarter and we were all tied up 13-13. It was 14-13 LHS at halftime.
"Nicolette Arnold came off the bench and showed her strength after missing the first month of the season with mono" said Coach Buskey.
Players from both teams were getting hit inside on shots or getting knocked to the floor all game. It was a tough, physical game. Luckhardt and Stacy are two of the more tougher, fearless guards in the state.
"This is what we needed" said Coach Theos. "We have more physical teams coming up on our schedule in Central and Memorial. We need to get used to playing games like this."