With legendary coach John Fagula leaving coaching following this 2013-14 season after 32 years of leading girls’ high school basketball squads, his Londonderry High girl hoopsters want to send their mentor off into the sunset with another state championship to celebrate and contemplate.
And the second-seeded Lady Lancers moved two significant steps closer to accomplishing that goal last week by defeating the Exeter High Lady Blue Hawks and the Winnacunnet High Lady Warriors from Hampton in Londonderry in the first two rounds of the Division I tournament.
The Lancer crew’s wins in those first two rounds qualified them to play in the D-I semifinal round – against the rival Pinkerton Academy Lady Astros no less – at Southern New Hampshire University this Wednesday, March 12, after Londonderry Times press time.
The Lady Lancers had no trouble disposing of the 15th-seeded Exeter High crew by a 82-25 margin in first-round play at LHS on Wednesday night, March 5.
The hosts led 10-4 after one period, 38-8 at halftime, and 55-16 rolling into the fourth period before finally winning by 57 points.
Unfortunately for Londonderry, one of the most noteworthy notes of the night came when star senior guard Aliza Simpson tweaked the injured right knee which kept her out of action for several weeks on a hard foul during the first-round tourney game.
Simpson, who paced the LHS effort in the win by scoring 17 points, grabbing eight rebounds, and making six steals, was hobbled on the play and was still favoring the knee the next day.
The hosts received points from a dozen players, with Ashley Berube netting 12, Casey Evans and Kelsey Coffey each collecting nine, and Jackie Luckhardt making a stellar 10 steals.
Londonderry had a bit more of a challenge when it came to eliminating seventh-seeded Winnacunnet at LHS Saturday evening, March 8. But Fagula’s force did an exceptional job of turning a decent, 14-point third quarter lead into a 71-43 blowout by the time the final buzzer did its buzzing.
The Lady Lancers enjoyed an exceptional start to the contest, leading by a full 16 points (26-10) after one period.
The Londonderry effort lagged quite a bit during the second and third quarters, during which Winnacunnet enjoyed a 23-21 scoring advantage. But the fast start had the Lady Lancers leading 36-20 at the half and 47-33 after three stanzas.
The hosts then put the proverbial pedal to the metal during the final quarter, outscoring their guests by a 24-10 margin and making the final score quite lopsided.
“We got out to a great start, which is just what you want to do because you don’t want to give (Winnacunnet) any hopes,” said Fagula. “And we did a nice job of finishing there in the fourth.”
Star court-general Simpson created a bit of concern again among the Lancer faithful when, with 5:34 left in the second quarter, she signaled to her coach that she wanted to come out of the game. But after a bit of a calming breather, the University of New Hampshire-bound standout returned to the court and ended up netting a game-high 27 points, dishing out 10 assists, and grabbing four rebounds.