In a game that got better as it went on, Nashua High South made a buzzer-beating layup in overtime to beat the defending D-I champs Londonderry 56-55 on Monday night in Nashua.
The Lancers made a resilient 2nd half comeback to force overtime. They took the lead in OT, but missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 8 seconds left. Trailing 55-54, South goes the length of the floor with junior point guard Kevin Genao pushing the ball ahead, dishing it off to senior wing Zavier Williams for the layup. The buzzer sounds, and the Purple Panthers celebrate in jubilation.
"All I said was for someone to make a play" said Nashua High South head coach Nate Mazzerole. "Well, Kevin made a play and Z made a play."
South improves to 5-3 on the season, while Londonderry falls to 3-3. D-I is wide open. There's a lot of parity. There's 10 or 11 teams who all have a shot on any given night and these are two of them.
"My goal is to make a top 4 seed, and I think we can be" said Londonderry head coach Nate Stanton.
The Purple Panthers were led by standout guard DJ Frechette, who dropped a team-high 21 points to go with 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots on 'D'. Meanwhile, Londonderry guard Jake Coleman poured in a game-high 25 points, including the 3-pointer that sent the game to overtime and the floater in OT that put the Lancers ahead. Frechette vs. Coleman was a fun match-up to watch. Two of the top players in the NHIAA, and both are only juniors. Both kids play hard and do the job on defense as well as offense.
"We need DJ to score" said Coach Mazzerole. "But tonight, that was the best he has played. If he keeps playing defense like that he could get Player of the Year in our division."
The hot shooting of Frechette and Williams got South off to a strong 1st half. They led by as many as 10 and they led 29-20 at halftime. In the 1st half Frechette scored 12 of his 21, and Williams scored 10 of his 12. The 2nd half was a different story though, as Coleman scored 16 of his 25.
Londonderry closed to within 2, 52-40 after 3 quarters. Genao slashed to the rim for a layup to extend the South lead to 44-40. Lancers junior forward Cam Reddy missed a free throw, but teammate Matt Corey tipped the opffensive rebound over to Cole Britting for the layup.
Coleman buried a 15-footer, tying it up 44-44. On the other end Frechette answered right back, driving and bamking in a lefty leaner for 2 to put South back on top 46-44. Reddy finished strong inside and we were tied back up 46-46. Just seconds later Genao drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key off the catch, and it's 49-46 Purple Panthers.
Coleman sunk a 3 from the right wing off the catch, and the South lead was down to 1, 50-49 with 4:41 left in regulation. Londonderry senior guard Nate Gaw took a charge on 'D'. Frechette took it to the rim in transition, but had his shot blocked by Coleman. Then Coleman pulled up off the dribble and drained another 3, tying the game 52-52 with just 1:49 left in the 4th quarter.
South got the ball with 1:00 left and the game still tied 52-52. They held for 1 shot and got it to Frechette, who was being covered by Coleman. Coleman played tough 'D', forcing Frechette to take a difficult fadeaway jumper. The shot was no good, and so was Ryan Penkala's put-back attempt. We were headed to overtime tied at 52-52!
Coleman got the Lancers on the board first in OT, slashing t=inside for a bucket. It was Londonderry's first lead since early in the 1st quarter. It was 54-52 LHS with 2:40 left in OT. On the other end Frechette went up for a shot inside, but got blocked by Corey (12 points).
Londonderry throws away the inbounds pass, giving the ball right back to South. The Purple Panthers turn it right back over, as Genao drove inside, tried to dish it off but had his pass deflected and stolen away. Lancers ball, Coleman brings it up the floor but Frechette pressures him the whole way and forces the turnover. South regains possession, still trailing 55-54 but Frechette misses a leaner in close.
South, still trailing, is forced to foul. They put Corey on the line with just 8 seconds remaining in OT. Corey misses the front end of the 1-and-1. South grabs the rebound and quickly pushes it the other way. That's when Genao dishes it to Williams for the layup as time expires. The Purple Panthers win 56-55.
"I actually took Z out of the game earlier, because I needed my lefty to make a lefty layup" explained Coach Mazzerole. "Well, he made the one that counted."
Led by Frechette and Williams, South got 19 points on the board in the 1st quarter. Frechette blocked a shot on 'D' and then Williams draindewd a 3 off the catch. Londonderry looked to run a fast-break off the South made basket though, with Corey finishing the layup on the other end.
Williams hit another 3, this time from the opposite wing as South takes an 8-6 lead in the 1st quarter. Frechette hit a step-back 3 to make it 11-6, but then the silky smooth Coleman answers back with his first 3 of the contest. Then Coleman drives into the lane and hits a teardrop. Williams finishes an easy layup on the break off a pass by Frechette. Frechette then hit a 3-pointer, plus got fouled for a 4-point play. It was 19-11 Purple Panthers after 1 quarter.
Corey sunk a 3 early in the 2nd quarter, but then South countered with quick buckets by Penkala and Frechette. Frechette pulled up and hit a 3, making it 26-16 - the largest lead of the game for South. Coleman slashed to the rim for 2 more, but he wasn't getting enough help from his teammates offensively.
South sophomore guard Anthony Agor drilled a pull-up jumper from the foul line. Coleman made a nice steal, took it hard to the rim but his shot attempt inside was blocked by Frechette. The Purple Panthers had a 29-20 lead at halftime.
The Lancers came out with more intensity in the 3rd quarter, when they exploded for a 20 point quarter. Who got it started? Coleman of course. He made a good dribble drive move, shaking his defender and then putting the ball behind his back before finishing at the rim. Reddy hit a turnaround leaner, but on the other end Frechette buried another 3 ball from the left wing with a hand in his face.
Coleman and Frechette continued to go back-and-forth, trading high level plays. Coleman maneuvers his way through the South 'D', getting to the rim for 2 more. On the next trip down the floor Coleman hit a baseline fadeaway jumper, cutting the Purple Panthers lead to 34-28. Corey converted a layup off a baseline out of bounds play. Coleman grabbed another steal, took it hard to the rim but once again Frechette hustled back on 'D' to block the shot.
Reddy made a layup off a baseline out of bounds play. Penkala drained a 3. That's when the Lancers really stepped up the defensive pressure out on the perimeter and South was having trouble handling it. The Purple Panthers turned it over on 3 possessions in a row. Britting and Gaw both made nice steal and took it all the way in for the layup. Then Coleman made a nice pass to Corey for a layup. Britting connected on a pull-up jumper from the right wing, as Londonderry closed the 3rd quarter with an impressive 9-2 run.
"Defense was all I talked about" said Coach Stanton. "We tried to deny Frechette the ball, and not let him get the ball out on the wing. We got some traps and that got our fast-break going."