By: Tuesday and Friday
2nd seeded Londonderry punched their ticket for the title game with a hard fought 46-40 victory over 3rd seeded Central. “It felt like we outlasted them”, first year coach Nick Theos said after the game. “We had to do the basics – make our free throws and not turn the ball over. We didn’t do a good job of that in the first half, but did a better job in the 2nd half."
The first half and the start of the exciting girls’ D1 final four: Both teams were as nervous as a first date at the start of the game. The ball couldn’t find a firm grasp on a lot of players’ hands. The word MISSED was featured prominently on the 1st quarter stat sheet. Welcome to the cavernous Penmen Fieldhouse Ladies!! The Central seniors, Mary Soares and Caitlyn Vincent softened up the nets with a 3 and a 2, which seemed to give Central some early game confidence. One thing you don’t want to do early in these Final four games is not score. A non-scoring snow ball at the final four can roll pretty quickly and bury any team at SNHU.
In the Last 30 seconds of the first the slithery and lanky Amanda Gaudreault buries a 3 and the shifty sophomore Sara Swetland sinks a runner to give Central a 15 to 8 lead at the end of the 1st quarter. Central had confidence and Coach Wenners had to be feeling good. Never underestimate the will of a defending champ. The Lady Lancers came back with authority in the 2nd quarter out scoring Central 16 to 6. Six different players scored for Londonderry. They loosened up on offense, drew contact and went to the line. Londonderry got back in the game and took a 24 to 21 lead at half time. Jaclyn Luckhardt said, “Our main goal was to spread out the scoring and we definitely did that. We noticed the middle was open so we thought if we kept driving then we’d get to the line.”
I don’t know if both teams went into the expansive work out rooms at halftime to use the facilities instead of resting, but both teams were cold in the 3rd. Shots rolled around the orange and out. Outside shots bounced high off the orange. The rims seemed to shrink in the 3rd. Both teams scored 7 points.
Londonderry played with some more grit in the paint in the 4th quarter. Senior Tara Burke was immense in the final frame. She scored 6 points, rebounded and took up concise space in the paint. She was a presence. Central’s rim wasn’t kind to them as they did have their opportunities to cut into the 4th quarter Londonderry lead time and time again. A Vincent 3 with 4 minutes left made the score 35 to 34 Londonderry. That was the closest Central would get. Londonderry seized control of the game by taking care of the ball and hitting their FTs. They went 7 for 12 from the line in the 4th.
Central shot 25% in the 2nd half with 5 – 20 shooting. That doesn’t get it done in a semifinal. Central out rebounded Londonderry 37 to 31. They attempted 41 shots to Londonderry’s 45 shots for the game. The Little Green had their chances. Not converting on the offense end was their downfall. There were many tantalizing rolls of the rim for Central in the 2nd half. The ball didn’t seem to want to roll their way. “We missed a lot of shots inside”, Coach Wenners said. “The disappointing thing is not that we lost, but that it’s over. This season was a lot of fun. We had 9 players in our rotation who were interchangeable and that’s rare.”
Londonderry fought through Central and the loss of Ashley Berube to injury. On the Berube injury, Jacklyn Luckhardt said, “It was definitely tough. She’s an amazing player and a big part of our team. We all had to step up.” The Lady Lancers advance to play Winnacunnet in an 'Old School' Championship game. These 2 teams have made a combined 8 appearances in the Title Game since 2007. The 7:30 pm title game this Friday will push the title game appearances into double figures since 2007.
Central finished the season on a nice winning streak winning their last 7 regular season games and their first 2 playoff games. They return 6 of their “Interchangeable” 9 for next year. Coach Wenners will have the Little Green competing with another shot for a return to the Final Four in 2016.