The Winnacunnet High boys basketball team nearly pulled off the upset of the year on Monday night in Hampton. Instead they came up just short, and as a result Londonderry (12-0) is still the only undefeated team left in Division I. Winnacunnet (4-9) was only down 56-54 with 2:15 left in the 4th quarter, with Lancers Player of the Year candidate Cody Ball already fouled out. But Londonderry ended the game on a 9-2 run, with all 9 points coming from the foul line. The Lancets survived a scare, and they win it 65-56.
"We weren't prepared for this game apparently" said Londonderry head coach Nate Stanton. "Hopefully after tonight they will wake up and learn a lesson."
That lesson is to not take any team lightly, even after coming off the big win the Lancers had on Friday night over Manchester Central in the 'Battle of Unbeatens'.
"At halftime we were up by 17 but still weren't satisfied" said Coach Stanton. "Jay (McKenna) does a great job. They're young, but they're getting better and better."
Not only did Londonderry lead by 17 at halftime, but they led by as many as 22 when it was 34-12 LHS with 2:30 to play in the 2nd quarter. From there Winnacunnet went on a 20-4 run to cut the Lancers' lead to 38-32 in the 3rd quarter.
"We need to play 2 halves" said Winnacunnet head coach Jay McKenna. "We know they're very good, very skilled, athletic and well coached. We know they had the big win vs. Central, and in the 1st half we played tentative. In the 2nd half we got them back on their heels. We can play with anyone, and hopefully the kids will get that."
Londonderry was led by senior wing Marc Corey (game-high 22 points), senior guard Cody Ball (15 points) and sophomore guard Jake Coleman (14 points, all in 1st half). All 3 of them could be all-state players this season. The Lancers played this game without sophomore power forward Brandon Radford, who had a strong game in the win over Central on Friday night.
"He (Radford) was out sick and missed school today" said Coach Stanton. "He had a fever and 103 degree temperature."
Winnacunnet meanwhile is a very young team, led mostly by underclassmen. 3 sophomores (Liam Viviano, Freddy Schaake and Logan Keene) and a freshman (James Morse) play key roles for the Warriors. Morse hit three points en route to 11 points, tying junior point guard Anthony Primavera for the team-high. Schaake joined them in double figures with 10.
Londonderry jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead on a 3-pointer by Ball from 3 feet behind the line on the left wing and then Corey made a nice dish to junior froward Joey Kwiatkowski for a layup. Winnacunnet answered, as junior Michael Lewis hit a 3 off the catch from the left wing off a kick out by Viviano.
The Lancers were pressing full court on a make, but overall the Warriors did a good job of breaking it. After a 3-pointer by Coleman off the catch from the right corner it was 10-5 LHS. Londonderry was moving the ball well vs. the Winnacunnet zone, as Ball zipped a pass over to Corey who hit the floater inside to make it 14-5 with 2:30 left in the 1st quarter. Kwiatkowski took a charge, but then Schaake made a steal and then a good move on the break to score on 2 defenders.
Ball made a good move with a crossover, spin into the lane and once the defense collapsed on him he kicked it out to Kwiatkowski (8 points) for a 3 from the left wing. Ball took it strong to the rim for 2, and it was 18-7 Londonderry after 1.
"They're one of the best teams we've seen" said Coach McKenna. "They shoot the ball very well."
The hot shooting continued in the 2nd quarter for the Lancers, as Coleman drained three more 3's, giving him four 3-pointers and 14 points in the 1st half. Early in the 2nd quarter Keene and Morse teamed up for a nice defensive play, challenging Corey at the rim and forcing a jump ball. That's when Coleman really started to heat up, as he hit back-to-back 3's against the Winnacunnet zone defense and just like that the Lancers had a 20 point lead, 27-7 with 5:28 left in the 1st half.
Junior guard Nathan Gaw made a nice hustle play for Londonderry, grabbing an offensive rebound to keep the possession alive. Then Gaw made a nice cross court pass to Coleman for a layup. Morse made a strong put-back for the Warriors, but then Coleman drained another 3, this one off the catch from the right wing. That gave the Lancers their largest lead of the game, 34-12 with 2:30 left in the 2nd quarter.
That's when the Warriors turned it around. Schaake buried a 3 from the top of the key, as Winnacunnet closed the 1st half with 5 straight points. It was 34-17 LHS at halftime.
Viviano and Primavera each scored quick buckets to begin the 3rd quarter to cap a 9-0 run for the Warriors. Tyler Aversano hit a 3 from the left wing, and just like that Londonderry's lead was down to just 12, 36-24. Meanwhile Coleman picked up 2 quick fouls, which gave him 4 fouls for the game so he had to sit for the remaining 4:30 of the 3rd quarter. The Lancers are not the deepest team - they rely on 6, maybe 7 guys. One of them was out sick and now one of them would have to sit the next few minutes with 4 fouls. Winnacunnet took advantage, as they broke the LHS press for a layup, with Primavera going hard to the rim for 2. Then Primavera hit 2 FTs, cutting the Londonderry lead to 38-32 and capping the 20-4 run by the Warriors.
Gaw made another nice hustle play, saving the ball from going out of bounds and throwing it off a Winnacunnet player to retain possession for the Lancers. Then Corey made a nice defensive play, taking a charge on Warriors junior forward Patrick Witt. Schaake drove to the rim, made a spin move into the lane and hit a finger roll. Londonderry led 44-34 as we headed to the 4th quarter.
Helping the Lancers' chances of maintaining the lead was the fact that Winnacunnet was already in the double bonus with 6:30 left in the 4th quarter. Londonderry now led 48-34, as they went on a 10-2 run after the Warriors closed to within 6.
Winnacunnet responded with a 20-8 run of their own. Morse hit a 3 off the catch, followed quickly by an and-1 finish by Keene to cut the LHS lead to 48-40 with 5:00 left in regulation. The foul went on Corey - now Coleman, Ball and Corey all had 4 fouls.
Aversano converted a put-back to cut the Lancers' lead to 48-42. Then Gaw made yet another great hustle play, saving the ball from going out of bounds and at the same time dishing it over to Ball who took it to the rim for an and-1 finish.
Morse hit 2 more 3's (yes, he's only a freshman) and the Londonderry lead was down to 6, 54-48 with 3:20 left in the 4th quarter. Then Ball fouled out, and had to sit for the remaining 3:09. With Ball out of the game, Winnacunnet picked up their pressure defense and forced a turnover. Primavera made the steal and raced up the floor for the easy layup to cut the deficit to 54-51. Londondery looked to run off the made basket, quickly getting it up the floor to Corey for the layup. Primavera answered with a drive and and-1 finish, making it 56-54 Lancers with 2:15 remaining. The Warriors student section was rocking, hoping to see their team pull off the upset of the year.
Winnacunnet was forced to foul, and Gaw went to the line for a pair of crucial free throws. He made both shots to make it a 2 possession game, 58-54 with 1:30 left in the contest. The Lancers held on from there for the 65-56 win.
The Warriors will be a tough out come tournament time. They're young but they're fearless. They're capable of pulling off a first round upset. And they could be a Final Four team next year with most of the squad back.
As for Londonderry, they're one of only 3 undefeated boys basketball teams left in NH - the others are D-II Portsmouth and D-III Pelham. Londonderry and Pelham played each other in the Lowell Holiday Tournament semi-finals, with Pelham winning in double-OT.