Lady Lancer Basketball Squad Finishes Season at Pinkerton

In order to have any serious chance of upsetting the second-seeded Pinkerton Academy squad in the Division I tournament quarterfinals in Derry last Saturday night, the seventh-ranked Londonderry High girls’ basketball squad had to be healthy, right on top of its game, and fully confident that it could defeat an opponent which had already vanquished it twice during the 2017-18 season.

None of those factors wound up being in place for coach Nick Theos’ crew in their March 3 battle with the PA crew. And as a result, the Lady Lancers saw their season end with a 61-23 loss to that tough opponent.

The young Lancers had advanced to the D-I quarterfinals with a 51-47 edging of the number 10 Exeter High Lady Blue Hawks at LHS on Wednesday night, Feb. 28. But in tallying that success, the Lady Lancers had standout sophomore forward Colleen Furlong suffer a wrist injury which severely limited her in the Pinkerton game. And that was one important factor in the subsequent loss to the Lady Astros.

In the two previous meetings with the Lady Lancers, Pinkerton had posted rather lopsided victories both times with a 64-40 success at LHS on Jan. 26 and a 52-36 win in Derry on Feb. 9.

In the tourney match, the Astros hammered their way out to a fast start, hitting their first six shots from the floor while Londonderry struggled mightily, missing its first seven shots.

Pinkerton led 8-1 early, and when the first period had been completed the hosts were up 22-6. But PA suffered a pretty significant personnel loss during those eight minutes – at least temporarily – when star senior point-guard Amanda Lemire had her nose broken by an opponent’s swinging elbow.

Lemire wouldn’t return to the game, but her team wouldn’t end up needing her. She will likely have to wear a protective mask during the Lady Astros’ forthcoming semifinal-round game with Manchester Memorial.

Pinkerton put forth a stellar defensive performance and ended up holding Londonderry to a mere two points in the second quarter, grasping a commanding 37-8 lead at halftime.

The Lady Lancers did a pride check at halftime and wound up outscoring their hosts by a 12-10 margin in quarter three, but the Lady Astros outscored Londonderry 14-3 in the final stanza to win by a full 38 points.

“We knew this would be a tough game to start with, but that doesn’t account for just eight points in (the first) half,” said Theos. “When you have a young team you can’t miss easy shots, and we missed a bunch of easy shots.”

Courtney Shay led the limited LHS offense with 11 points, and Michelle Marino was second with six.

The young squad had defeated Exeter by double digits in regular-season action on the seacoast back on Jan. 12, but the Lady Lancers weren’t quite able to win as decisively in the more important first-round tourney contest on their home floor. Still, the youthful locals managed to advance for the rematch with PA.

Londonderry held a six-point lead of 17-11 after one period, and the locals’ advantage sat at 25-21 at the halftime break.

The Lady Lancers were up 37-32 rolling into the fourth stanza, and despite being outscored by a 15-14 margin in the fourth Londonderry moved ahead to the quarterfinals.

The victorious LHS crew received 18 points apiece from stalwarts Shay and Marino, with freshman Ashley Rourke contributing eight of them to the success.

“It was a tight game throughout,” said coach Theos. “They press and trap for four quarters and try to get you to play at a pace that you’re not comfortable with. We had to play smart but also be aggressive. Starting out, we beat their press and got easy lay-ups.  Exeter changed things up and forced us to break the pressure more deliberately and took away the long pass. After the first quarter we focused on the defense and stopping their post play. It wasn’t easy because they have multiple six-footers, but Charlotte Sullivan and Michelle Marino did a great job in the post, slowing them down. On offense, we continued to attack the rim, where Shay scored most of her 18 points.”

The Lady Lancers lost standout sophomore Furlong to her wrist injury, but both Rourke and Mia Fantauzzi did strong work in relief in breaking Exeter’s pressure.

“In the second half we extended our lead to 12 points on big plays by Marino and a big three-pointer by Katie Sullivan. But being a young team, we let them back in down the stretch,” said Theos. “But give the girls credit, they didn’t fold and Marino hit two big free throws to push the lead to four, and then we leaned on them on the defensive end to hold them off.”

The LHS coach wound up being quite proud of his youthful charges.

“It was a big test for the girls, and to deal with adversity and still get the win was big,” he said. “We need to learn to win in the playoffs, and tonight was the first step. I’m so proud of this group. They keep fighting no matter what, and that will help us going forward.”

The young LHS squad began its campaign with growing pains, dropping its first four decisions before besting Trinity to move to 1-4.

The contingent enjoyed its longest regular-season winning streak during the span covering Jan. 30 to Feb. 6, when it defeated Nashua South, Salem, and Winnacunnet of Hampton in succession. The locals then won another three games in a row before the PA loss.

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