Lancer Boy Cagers Close in on Crown with Victories

Watching the Londonderry High girls’ basketball squad bag its second consecutive state championship late last week has only heightened the undefeated LHS boy hoopsters’ desire to cap off their exceptional 2014-15 campaign with a crown.

Second-year coach Nate Stanton’s cagers got two steps closer to doing just that last week by ending the campaigns of the contingents from Winnacunnet High School of Hampton and the Merrimack High hoopsters.

The Lancers had no trouble with the 16th-seeded Winnacunnet High Warriors in opening-round tourney play at LHS  Wednesday, March 11.

The top-seeded hosts – who had bested their seacoast opponent by 65-56 during a regular season meeting in mid-February – pounded the Warriors by a 71-44 count in the tourney contest to end the 6-13 visiting side’s season.

Londonderry was up by double digits by the time the first quarter was complete (21-9), and it led by better than 20 points (39-18) when halftime arrived.

Winnacunnet put forth a surge in the third quarter – outscoring its host by a 19-13 count – but the Lancers finished strong by outscoring the seacoast side by a 19-7 margin during the final eight minutes of action.

Senior guard Cody Ball led the LHS charge by netting 21 points, sophomore Jake Coleman notched 15 and added six steals, Marc Corey contributed 14 points, and Brandon Radford was good for 11. Joey Kwiatkowski registered eight rebounds in the lopsided victory.

The host team bagged nine, three-point buckets, with Ball and Coleman each sinking three and Corey notching two.

In the quarterfinal-round home game against Merrimack Saturday night, March 14, the Lancers were handed a battle by the ninth-seeded Merrimack High Tomahawks. But in the end, the hosts dealt veteran coach Tim Goodridge’s gutsy group a 49-44 defeat in ending its 2014-15 campaign.

Londonderry played Merrimack twice during the regular season, barely escaping with a 52-51 win on the road the first time but besting the opponent by a 56-48 score at home in the second.

The Lancers were pushed right to the wall by Merrimack in the tourney battle, with the Tomahawks holding LHS star guard Ball scoreless until mid-way through the third period and keeping their hosts without a lead until the very last moment of that stanza.

Goodridge’s group employed a triangle-and-two defense to bottle up Ball and the offense around him, but the Saint Anselm College-bound stalwart finally busted loose with a little less than four minutes to go in the third quarter. He wound up scoring 15 of the Lancers’ last 26 points and pointed the locals toward the dramatic semifinal win.

Londonderry headed into the fourth quarter with the slimmest possible lead (32-31), and that was the host team’s first advantage of the night. Stanton’s squad battled it out and then hung tough in the fourth – with Corey (team-high 17 points) and Coleman each sinking a pair of clutch free throws – in bagging a win that pushed it on to a semifinal-round contest with fourth-seeded Spaulding of Rochester on Tuesday, March 17, after Londonderry Times press time.

“This was the most adversity we faced all season long, and we overcame it and I could not be more proud of my team,” said Stanton after the Merrimack win. “They came together in the most challenging time and got the job done, and that is what makes them such a special group.”

Londonderry rolled into its final-four battle with Spaulding holding the knowledge that it bested the Red Raiders by a 77-60 tally in Rochester in the last regular-season game for both sides. That decision ended a seven-game winning streak that the Spaulding side had rolling.

“We are going to UNH, which is well-deserved, and we are going to enjoy every second of it. It is tough beating a team three times in one season, especially a Merrimack team,” said Stanton. “That was a statement game for us to show our toughness. This is the culture change, and the kids are reaping the benefits of their hard work, dedication, and their sacrifice to get the job done and to get to Durham.”