Going into the Thursday night, Feb. 11 basketball contest, the opposing teams appeared to be headed in opposite directions.
The host Londonderry High Lancer boy cagers had lost six of their last seven games, including three in a row, and the 4-7 locals could feel their backs scraping up against the proverbial wall as they aimed to remain in the Division I tournament race after winning the D-I crown early last year.
The visiting Manchester Central Little Green, conversely, had won three games in a row and five of their last six and were perched near the top of the congested Division I standings with a 9-2 record.
One would think that this game shaped up as a solid – if not lopsided – victory for the Queen City side prior to tip-off. But LHS coach Nate Stanton’s Lancers had different ideas, and the excellent performance they put forth in a 78-62 throttling of Central spoke volumes about the sizes of the Lancer players’ hearts, their mental toughness and skills, as well as the local squad’s ability to still figure in the D-I playoff picture as the tournament nears.
The LHS cagers won every quarter but the third, and outscored the Central crew by a 23-9 margin in the fourth period to win going away.
The victorious hosts received a big, 29-point night from standout junior guard Jake Coleman, 17 from youthful big man Matt Corey, nine from hard-nosed veteran guard Nate Gaw, and seven from speedy and deceptive young guard Cole Britting.
“Its been quite a stretch, winning just one out of six games. We’ve played better recently, but not a complete game. But tonight we played a complete game,” Stanton said.
With the goal of making the D-I tourney perhaps beginning to fade away with the successive defeats, Stanton spoke to his boys recently about rallying and making a strong run at the post-season.
“It comes down to believing,” said the coach. “And I asked them the other day if they believe in this team, and they said yes. And I believe that we can compete with anybody.”
The Lancers made it plain from the start of the game with Central that they’d be hanging right with the higher-ranked opponent, and the hosts grasped a slim lead of 14-12 at the close of the opening stanza.
They then outscored the Little Green cagers by a 20-14 tally in quarter two to carry a 34-26 advantage to halftime.
Standout Coleman tallied the first 11 of his points in the opening half, and there were 18 more yet to come.
The visitors netted 27 points in the third quarter – to Londonderry’s 21 – in trimming their deficit down to just a bucket at 55-53 after three periods had been completed.
The score had been knotted up at 53-53 with 30 seconds left in the third, but Coleman nailed a two-point shot with just two ticks left to send his side into the final stanza with the slim advantage.
The Lancers then hit four of their first five shots from the floor to start the fourth quarter – with Central missing its first three – as the locals opened their lead back up and ended up winning by a total of 16 points.
Caption: Lancers’ junior hoop standout Jake Coleman soars between two Central defenders during the LHS squad’s big win last week. Photo by Chris Pantazis