CAPTION: Lady Lancer Courtney Shay attempts to drive past a Pinkerton defender during the rivalry battle between those two local squads in Derry last week. Photo by Chris Paul. Full image below.
Last Friday evening, Pinkerton Academy’s girls’ basketball coach Lani Buskey pointed toward the Londonderry High girls’ hoop squad who were holding a post-game meeting and stated, “That’s the most improved team in Division I over there.”
Buskey’s Astros had just tallied their 10th consecutive victory and moved to 12-1 in Division I with a 52-36 defeat of the Lancers. But the perhaps lopsided nature of the 16-point win was quite misleading to anyone simply looking at the raw numbers, because coach Nick Theos’ youthful Lancers gave their hosts of the Feb. 9 game a real battle before falling in defeat. And Buskey knew it well.
A few days prior, the LHS team had bagged its third consecutive win and climbed to within one game of the .500 mark at 6-7 with a 49-39 defeat of the Winnacunnet High Lady Warriors in Hampton on Tuesday night, Feb. 6.
The locals won the first half by outscoring their hosts by a 17-3 margin in the first quarter and then by a solid 13-8 tally in the second.
After grasping a commanding, 30-11 lead at the half, the LHS crew watched its host outscore it by a 13-5 margin in the third period to place the score at 35-24 after three quarters.
But even though the Lady Warriors managed to outscore coach Theos’ troop by a 15-14 tally in the fourth period and make things interesting, Londonderry still won by double digits in keeping its modest winning streak going.
Sophomore standout Courtney Shay came up with 13 points and seven rebounds for the victors, Colleen Furlong added 11 points, Ashley Rourke was good for nine points and 10 boards, and Michelle Marino contributed eight points.
“We started great again,” said Theos. “In the 17-3 first quarter, Rourke got us going offensively and on the boards while the entire starting five played great team defense. We built a comfortable lead by pushing the ball on offense and finishing strong, and on defense it was a team effort.”
With that win tucked safely away, the Lady Lancers took aim at closing out their week by having a better overall showing against a Pinkerton team which had defeated the LHS crew by a full 24 points in a 64-40 success in Ball Family Trophy play at Londonderry High back on Jan. 26.
“We are becoming the team I always knew we could be,” said Theos after the seacoast win. “I hope the girls realize what they’re capable of because we could be fun to watch the rest of the way.”
Pinkerton bounded into the Feb. 9 home rematch with Londonderry boasting a glittering, 11-1 record and some nine consecutive wins to its credit.
The Lady Astros tore their way out to a 17-4 lead in the first quarter, but they then saw pesky Londonderry win both the second and third periods in keeping the game close.
The PA lead sat at 11 points at 32-21 at halftime, and the hosts were only up by five at 35-30 after playing nearly the entire third quarter without foul-addled standout Brooke Kane, who had scored a dozen points in the first half.
Kane drew her third foul just seconds into the third period but returned with about three minutes to go – with her Lady Astros having missed seven consecutive shots from the floor – but only remained in the game for a few more seconds before drawing her fourth foul and having to come back out.
The problem for Londonderry – which came into the contest hoping to even its D-I record at 7-7 – was that while Kane sat on the bench and her teammates scuffled mightily with their offense – the Lady Lancers couldn’t hit their own shots.
Pinkerton only hit one of its 11 shots from the floor during the third quarter, but Londonderry only sank three of its 10 shots – and none of its final six tries – in remaining an arm’s length from its host.
Londonderry trimmed its deficit down to just four points at 36-32 on a Courtney Shay free throw at the start of the fourth period, but it would get no closer as the Lady Astros ended a 1-for-13 shooting skid with a Cydney Lessard three-pointer. And the PA lead would never fall below five points again.
Kane would return to the game down the stretch and net seven big points which would help put the final touches on the win.
The Lady Lancers would wind up hitting just one of the nine shots they took from the floor in the fourth quarter, and they ended up falling by those 16 points.
Kane wound up leading all scorers with 19 points despite missing virtually the entire third quarter. Amanda Lemire contributed 14 – many from the free-throw line – and Lessard finished up with eight. Londonderry didn’t have anybody manage double-digits in points, with Shay leading the way with nine and Colleen Furlong and Katie Sullivan each netting six.
“I really can’t complain much,” said LHS coach Theos. “I feel bad for the kids because I know we’re better shooters than we showed here tonight. And the game plan was to get Kane in foul trouble by taking charges because we know she’s aggressive to the hoop. Check. We got that accomplished. We just couldn’t take advantage of having her on the bench because we didn’t hit our shots.”
The Lady Lancers strode into this week looking at a home game against the struggling Alvirne Lady Broncos of Hudson on Tuesday the 13th – after Londonderry Times press time – followed by a short road trip to Manchester Central to play the Little Green this Friday night.