For many, it was a case of looking at the Londonderry High boys’ basketball squad’s perfect 14-0 record and host Manchester Memorial’s much more modest 7-6 mark and thinking, confidently but quite incorrectly as it turned out, “Ah, another blowout.”
It appeared that second-year coach Nate Stanton’s Lancers were all lined up to make their Division I-leading record 15-0 by thumping their Queen City hosts on Tuesday night, Feb. 24..
The LHS crew did remain undefeated that night, but it was anything but easy as the locals wound up with their hearts lodged firmly in their throats after losing the lead in the final minute of play but regaining it in the last seconds in a 65-64 barn-burner.
Going into the battle, Stanton and most of his players were still able to feel at least a bit of the sting left over from last March when 12th-ranked Memorial – led by junior Trevon Maughn and Kabongo Ngalukukondi – squashed top-five finisher Londonderry’s title hopes with an upset defeat in the quarterfinal-round of the divisional tournament.
Maughn and Ngalukukondi both played huge roles in the host Crusaders’ impressive, physically and mentally-tough battle to hand the Lancers their first D-I loss of the season.
With just 45 seconds to play, Memorial bagged its first lead of the game since the first minute of play on a steal and bucket by guard Nick Phillibert that made it a 64-63 game in the Crusaders’ favor.
The Lancers hurried the ball back up the court – looking harried even though plenty of time remained to set up their offense and get a good scoring chance lined up – and they lofted a quick shot at the hoop that bounded off the rim and back into Memorial hands.
The hosts called a time-out and brought the ball back up the court, and an obvious Londonderry attempt to foul Ngalukukondi drew not a foul call but a jump ball, with the Lancers getting the ball back.
LHS senior standout Marc Corey then lofted a 15-foot jumper off the backboard of the Memorial basket and through the netting, and the Lancers had the 65-64 lead to win the game.
“Memorial’s record never really shows what kind of team they are,” said Stanton. “We saw that last year in the tournament, and we saw it again here tonight.”
Londonderry won the first three quarters, with leads of 17-13 after one quarter, 42-35 at the half, and 56-48 at the end of three periods. But one never felt that the locals had the game under their control, and powered by senior forward Ngalukukondi – who at points in the second half was the entire Memorial offense, with his four teammates merely standing around watching him work – the host team outscored Londonderry by a 16-9 tally in the fourth quarter and made things far more interesting than the Lancers would have liked.
“We stopped capitalizing on our opportunities and making shots in the second half,” lamented Stanton.
Memorial’s Ngalukukondi ended up leading all scorers with 25 points, while the victorious LHS side received 21 from Corey, 19 from Cody Ball, and 16 from Jake Coleman.
But Londonderry had a far smaller struggle with Nashua North’s Titans at LHS last Friday night, Feb. 27, in a 79-50 throttling of that opponent.
The 5-12 Titans had won three of their previous four games going into that battle, so they hoped to give the unbeaten Lancers a challenge that never materialized.
The hosts grasped a 20-8 lead after one quarter and a 33-23 advantage at the half.
The Lancers then outscored its guest 25-15 in quarter three, and enjoyed a 21-12 scoring advantage in the fourth.
Cody Ball tallied 26 points (including four, three-pointers) in the win, Coleman collected 13, Corey notched 12, and Joey Kwiatkowski was good for 11. All in all, 10 Lancers contributed points to the 29-point victory.
The Lancers assured themselves of the top seed in Division I on Monday night, March 2, with a big win over 9-8 Alvirne of Hudson on the LHS team’s senior night.
The 17-0 locals nailed nine, three-point buckets on the way to the 74-54 bucking of the visiting Broncos.
The Lancers led 15-10 after one quarter but were outscored 13-10 in the second period to make it 25-23 in Londonderry’s favor at halftime.
But Stanton’s squad simply pummeled Alvirne – outscoring it by a big 49-31 tally in the second half – to win by 20 points.
Marc Corey led the victors with 22 points – and four treys – while Ball contributed 17 points and three threes and Coleman also tallied 17 with a pair of treys. Joey Kwiatkowski contributed 10 points – with two threes – as the Lancers rolled over the visiting Hudson bunch.