It’s an ugly pattern which the Londonderry High varsity girls’ basketball team certainly doesn’t want to see continue.
Last March, the Lady Lancers rolled toward the 2013-14 Division I championship – with fingers and toes firmly crossed – hoping that star point-guard Aliza Simpson’s injured knee would hold up through the ravages, the sprints and quick cuts left and right, in tournament play. Meanwhile, in street clothes on the team’s bench sat another guard, Jenna Conroy, who had been forced to surrender her entire junior hoop campaign to a knee injury.
Now, during the same week in 2014 in which Simpson did in fact battle her way through that knee injury to help lead her Lady Lancers to the top of the D-I mountain, the Londonderry High girls’ basketball squad has all digits firmly crossed in hopes that its crew can manage to overcome the loss of star junior low-post player Ashley Berube – to a knee injury – as it aims to successfully defend its state title.
As the LHS lady cagers were beginning their 2014-15 tourney battles with a resounding win over the Exeter High Lady Blue Hawks last week – the same night that Berube injured an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and was forced to the sidelines – former New Hampshire Gatorade Player of the Year Aliza Simpson found herself immersed deeply in the world of collegiate hoops at the University of New Hampshire.
The freshman guard – who was also an all-state soccer player at LHS in addition to her stellar basketball skills for legendary coach John Fagula – had played in all 29 of the 17-12 Lady Wildcats’ contests by the end of last weekend, starting some 22 of them.
The move from New Hampshire high school Division I hoop to college D-I basketball has been intense for the 2014 LHS grad. But she insists that it has been an enjoyable challenge.
It’s been a huge transition, bigger than I imagined,” she said. “Time management has become a huge key, and finding extra time in the gym has been very key to helping me out. It’s very different from high school because every player is fighting for a starting spot, and every player is very strong and talented. I love it though, and I’m so blessed to be able to continue playing.”
Simpson is the only New Hampshire resident on the UNH team, and one of just four New Englanders. There are four girls from Ohio, one from Canada, and even one from Germany.
“I love playing for UNH, and the support of the community is great,” added Simpson. “Having my family at my games is definitely the best feeling, especially with me being one of the few locals. I’m lucky to be able to go home.”
In her 29 collegiate contests, the former Lady Lancer has averaged 24.7 minutes and 4.2 points per game. She has also tallied averages of 2.5 rebounds, two assists, and one steal per contest.
Her biggest individual efforts of the 2014-15 UNH campaign have included a 13 point, four rebound, two assist performance against Dartmouth in December, a 12 point (with four, three-pointers) night against Vermont on Jan. 14, and a nine point, five rebound, three assist effort against Hartford a week after that. The Lady Wildcats won all three of those games with Simpson excelling. Simpson showed – in gutsy and determined fashion – last March that she could battle her way through a physical challenge with all of the proverbial chips on the table. And now, a year later as a collegiate athlete, she has shown that she can wade into the blistering heat of sports at an even higher level and exhibit the ability which will doubtless make her a hoop powerhouse again in the next three years.