For several weeks, coach John Fagula and his Londonderry High girls’ basketball squad awaited the return of star senior guard Aliza Simpson from a hairline fracture of the right knee.
And in two games last week, the Lady Lancers were left to surmise what kind of difference Simpson would have made against perhaps their toughest Division I opponent, and then to savor what a difference the University of New Hampshire-bound court general did make once back on the court.
The LHS hoopsters played what they pray will be their last game of the 2013-14 campaign without Simpson on Wednesday night, Feb. 19, at Bedford High School against the unbeaten Bedford Lady Bulldogs.
Bedford remained undefeated at 15-0, with Londonderry falling to 13-3 with a 50-36 decision.
Bedford’s intense second half defense sat at the center of its success in the win, as the hosts rebounded from a 25-22 halftime deficit to outscore the Lady Lancers by a 28-14 margin during that second half.
Standout junior forward Casey Evans netted 12 points and yanked down nine rebounds for her side, but the locals still dropped a second consecutive decision for the first time this winter.
Then came Friday night, Feb. 21, when Simpson was back in the Lady Lancers’ red, white, and blue uniform for a contest against the rather warm Trinity High Lady Pioneers on their court in Manchester.
The only thing that wound up missing from Simpson’s performance was stamina, as she didn’t have her usual level of conditioning after only taking in a few practices since receiving clearance from her doctor to play.
The talented guard did plenty in the Lady Lancers’ 68-50 defeat of an 8-5 opponent that came into the home game having won four of its five previous contests. Londonderry moved to 14-3 with the win.
“I didn’t want our players to think they were going to see the usual Aliza tonight because I knew they wouldn’t,” said Fagula. “She still needs conditioning, and we still needed to have people pick up a little more slack than they’d usually have to with her on the court.”
Simpson played well and spent the majority of the game on the floor making a difference for her side. She netted 17 points and dished out eight assists, and Fagula’s desire to have slack picked up by others was answered with three other Lancers scoring in double digits. Sophomore forward Ashley Berube scored 14, freshman guard Kelsey Coffey netted 11, and junior forward Tara Burke was good for 10.
While overjoyed to be back out on the court with her teammates, Simpson readily admitted to not feeling entirely in the groove yet.
“I was feeling (the lack of conditioning) in my legs. It didn’t feel like my legs were moving with me. But I didn’t feel any twinges in the knee,” said Simpson.
Simpson and her teammates raced out to a 24-12 lead by the close of the first quarter, but their halftime advantage sat at nine points (39-30) after the Lady Pioneers outscored their guests by an 18-15 margin in period number two.
The visitors outscored their hosts by a 15-6 tally in the third quarter and had their lead up over 20 points a number of times during the second half.