The Ball Family Trophy contest between the two-time defending Division I champion Londonderry High girls’ basketball squad and the rival Pinkerton Academy Lady Astros at LHS last Saturday, Feb. 6 was a much-anticipated one locally and in D-I girls’ hoop circles. And the hundreds of folks who attended that battle – won by Londonderry by a 39-28 score – saw some pretty impressive round-ball, with team defense right up at the forefront.
The host Lady Lancers stepped into play with a 10-2 record following a somewhat anxious week of contemplation following a tough road loss to the Winnacunnet High Lady Warriors in Hampton, which ended the LHS crew’s impressive eight-game winning streak.
The visiting Lady Astros also had a rather uncomfortable week off after seeing their perfect 10-0 record blemished by a loss to Nashua North.
The meeting between Londonderry and Pinkerton last weekend featured some impressive defensive work from both sides, but particularly from the host Lady Lancers in their 11-point win that made them 11-2 on the D-I campaign and left PA at 10-2.
The Pinkerton bunch was also left intensely frustrated by its inability to hit many shots, with a stinging 0-for-15 skid through most of the third quarter and into the fourth hampering the academy side in its hopes of posting a victory in enemy territory.
After the contest, LHS coach Nick Theos hinted to members of the press that his hard-working and skilled cagers definitely deserve credit for minimizing Pinkerton’s scoring chances in the double-digit victory.
“I keep telling the kids that if we keep top-five teams under 30 points, there are going to be nights where it’s not going to be because of a bad shooting night for the other team,” said the coach. “Today we gave a maximum effort, as usual.”
Neither team shot well in the first period of play, but Londonderry grasped a 9-4 advantage after that stanza after hitting four of its 17 shot attempts from the floor. Pinkerton sank just two of its 11 attempts from the floor.
The Lady Astros had precisely those same shooting numbers from the floor in quarter two while their hosts sank just one of their 13 attempts from the field during those eight minutes, and at the halftime break the Lady Lancers grasped a modest 15-10 advantage.
But after sinking its first shot from the floor in the third quarter – on a successful Courtney Velho attempt – to trim its deficit down to three points at 15-12, Pinkerton missed 15 consecutive shots from the floor in falling behind by 10 points (24-14) at the end of three quarters and trailing by 14 (30-16) midway through the fourth quarter before Sara McLeman finally ended the shooting skid.
However, the academy side didn’t get its deficit much below double digits for long during the final period as the Lady Lancers raced to the finish line powered by star senior guard Jackie Luckhardt, who wound up leading all scorers with a dozen points.
The hosts’ victorious effort was also helped along by seven points from Kate Balcom and six apiece from Ashley Evans and Kat Wells. Of course, sitting at the center of the LHS success was that superb team defense.
Pinkerton – now dealing with a miniature two-game losing streak after starting out 10-0 – got 11 points from standout veteran guard Marissa Stacy, eight from Velho, and six from Amanda Lemire.
“We’re going to have nights where our shots don’t fall, that’s inevitable. But our offense has to work harder on execution. Right now, we’re a one-and-done team,” lamented PA coach Lani Buskey, referring to her team’s trouble with getting more than one shot opportunity on each trip down the court.
In the wake of the Ball Family Trophy battle with Pinkerton, the Lady Lancers were looking at a five-day break from action that ends this Friday night, Feb. 12 with a game at Manchester Central High as the LHS side aims to maintain the real momentum it has built up.