Sometimes, teams which face opponents with far weaker records than their own need to be reminded that just about any rival can surprise you on a given night, and you can never take a victory for granted.
Case in point, last Tuesday night, Feb. 20, the surging and 7-9 Londonderry High girls’ basketball squad played host to a Dover High crew which stepped into that evening’s play with a lowly 3-11 record and a losing streak which had reached eight games.
However, Londonderry coach Nick Theos had no trouble remembering the 2016-17 game which his Lady Lancers played against the Dover Green Wave in which that seacoast squad rebounded from a double-digit deficit late to dent the LHS squad’s post-season hopes badly. Hence, he was fully aware of what Dover – with its centerpiece pivot player Katrina Krenzer – was capable of in last week’s game, record and losing skid be damned.
And the Green Wave came fairly close to wiping out the Lady Lancers’ hopes of ending the current 2017-18 campaign with a .500 record and stronger positioning in the Division I tournament. But in the end, strong play from several of his reserves and several starters helped the Lady Lancers move to 8-9 on the campaign with a 57-51 defeat of the struggling opponent.
One pivotal performance came from LHS junior forward Michelle Marino, who gave up quite a bit of size to Dover stalwart Krenzer in effectively pestering her all night defensively and also leading Londonderry in scoring with 15 points. Sophomore guard Courtney Shay finished with 14 points, freshman stalwart Ashley Rourke contributed 10, and junior reserve Paige Velie was good for nine. All in all, the victorious locals had seven players net points.
“Marino was up to the task defensively, and she was outstanding on offense too. A great all-around night for her,” said coach Theos.
The Green Wave wound up winning both the first and fourth quarters and had Londonderry’s lead down to just six points with just under three minutes left in the contest. But the Lady Lancers were able to hang on tight and bag D-I win number eight.
Dover was up 19-17 at the end of the high-scoring first period, but Londonderry outscored its guest by a 10-3 margin in the second stanza to carry a 27-22 lead to the halftime break.
The Green Wave sank a three-point shot mere seconds into the third quarter to slice the LHS lead down to a paltry two points at 27-25, but the Lady Lancers ended up doubling up on Dover’s point output (16-8) in that period in carrying a double-digit lead of 43-30 into the last stanza.
Londonderry’s lead grew to as many as 15 points several times early in the final period, but Dover had it down to six at 50-44 with 2:55 showing on the game clock.
The LHS advantage never got any lower than that the rest of the way, but Dover was unwilling to go away until the final buzzer sounded. The Green Wave actually sank a shot right at the buzzer to leave the Londonderry margin of victory at six points at 57-51. And the visitors outscored their hosts by a tally of 21-14 in quarter four.
“Tonight was one of those nights where a few of the kids had rough ones,” said LHS coach Theos. “But some other kids stepped up and got the job done.”
That victory – which gave the locals a fine 5-2 record in their last seven contests – placed the young Lady Lancers into a position where they could end the regular season right at the .500 mark at 9-9 if they could defeat the struggling Keene High Lady Blackbirds (5-12) on the night of Friday, Feb. 23.
And on that pivotal night the Londonderry girls came away with a commanding 62-38 win over Keene, which puthem in the postion of hosting their first playoff game.
The final home game of the season meant it was senior night for the team, and the young team celebrated their only senior, Michaela Downing. It was a tough hard fought game for the first half with Lhs holding only a 5 point lead. Marino paced the Lancers in the first half with 7 points and Rourke with 9 first half points. We just kept fighting and trying to put together good trips up the floor. And in the third and fourth quarters we finally did. Shay took over on offense scoring 16 second half points while the defense tightened up holding Keene to 18 second half points.
“The kids worked so hard to get here and I couldn’t be prouder.” said Theos. “It was a good team win tonight and going forward we will need to be a strong team. The playoffs are tough and energy gets drained and bench will be key going forward. I hope we learned all the lessons we needed to learn this season and we play our best the next two games. But tonight we are happy we won and we get to celebrate with our senior Michaela.”
The Lady Lancers outscored Keene in three of the four quarters, 20-13, 5-8, 13-8, and 24-10.
Scorers for LHS were Shay with 20 points; Ashley Rourke, 13; Colleen Furlong, 9, and Michelle Marino with 7 points.
With the final game of the regular season win the team will host the Exeter High Hawks, who finished at 8-1. The game is scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 28 at LHS, after the Londonderry Times press time.
With a win in that game, the girls will move on to face Pinkerton Academy for the third time this season.