By winning its final three games of the 2015-16 regular season and five of its last six, the two-time defending Division I champion Londonderry High School girls’ basketball squad bounded into the tournament with both a head of steam and considerable confidence.
The Lady Lancers capped off the regular campaign last week with victories over highly-competitive opponents from Manchester Memorial and Nashua North, finishing with a 15-3 record. They share that same record with Bedford and Winnacunnet of Hampton.
The Lancers got their Division I record up to 14-3 with a 51-40 defeat of a pesky Manchester Memorial mob in the Queen City on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
After leading 11-5 after one quarter and 23-17 after two, the Lady Lancers had a dominant third quarter and outscored their hosts by a 17-3 margin in that stanza.
But the Crusaders – who fell to 7-10 with the loss – still had plenty of fight left in them in the fourth quarter, and they outscored Londonderry 20-11 during that period in keeping their comeback hopes alive.
“It was a tough, physical first half, and neither team could establish itself,” said coach Nick Theos. “In the third quarter we finally got our break going and our press going. We turned turnovers into lay-ups and outscored them by 14, taking control. But Memorial didn’t give up and fought back in the fourth, knocking down big outside shots.”
Ashley Evans netted 12 points and pulled down seven rebounds for LHS, battle-tested point-guard Jackie Luckhardt scored 11 points and dished out six assists, and versatile veteran Kate Balcom was good for nine points, nine steals, and a 19 rebounds.
“Kate was all over the boards, just out-working and out-jumping everyone,” said Theos. “She finished one point and one steal away from a triple-double.”
Along with the work of Evans, Luckhardt, and Balcom, the Lady Lancers received impressive contributions from several other sources.
“Kelsey Coffey hit a big three-pointer in the fourth quarter to stop the bleeding, and Kat Wells did a great job defending all game,” said Theos.
The Lady Lancers then put the cap down tight on the regular season with a strong performance on Senior Night last Friday evening, Feb. 26, which ended with a 53-44 defeat of a Nashua North contingent entered the night with a three-game winning streak and a strong 11-6 record.
Star senior guard Luckhardt paced the way with a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds to go with six assists. Her fellow senior Balcom produced 10 points and dished out six assists of her own.
“It was a great Senior Night,” said Theos. “We came out strong, going up 9-0 with the seniors Anna Wilkinson, Angela Peikert, Shannon Sonia, Jackie Luckhardt, Kate Balcom, and Kat Wells coming off the bench. But North closed the gap and it was back and forth all half.”
Londonderry led by slim margins of 13-12 after one period and 25-22 at the half.
“Finally in the fourth (quarter) we got control and the lead, and our defense tightened up and we got stops. Freshman Delaney McGurn had two big threes,” said Theos.
The LHS lead sat at a tiny two points (39-37) at the end of three quarters, but the hosts outscored their guests 14-7 in the fourth period.
“Amanda DeAngelis had a big steal and basket in the fourth quarter to help seal the win,” added Theos. “Jackie (Luckhardt) played amazing, leading the way offensively and defensively.”
When the New Hampshire Interscholastic Athletic Association released its Division I tournament pairings for the first round of the tourney this past Monday morning, the Lady Lancers learned that they’d snagged the second seed and would be hosting the number 15 Exeter High Lady Blue Hawks at LHS this Wednesday night, March 2, after Londonderry Times press time. Exeter got thumped by PA last week.
Caption: Londonderry High senior guard Jackie Luckhardt and her teammates rolled into the D-I tourney this week with a stellar 15-3 record and the number two seed in the league. Photo by Chris Paul