Londonderry stuns undefeated Bedford in D1 title game 57-56

Celebrating begins for the D1 champion Londonderry Lancers

Celebrating begins for the D1 champion Londonderry Lancers

Londonderry coach John Fagula retires with 12th state championship

Londonderry coach John Fagula retires with 12th state championship

(Hooksett NH) What a finish!

Junior Brittany Roche broke a tie with a clutch three for Londonderry with twelve seconds left and the Lancers upset Bedford, 57-56, to take the Division 1 title at SNHU on Sunday night.

The win sends LHS coach John Fagula into retirement with his twelfth state title.  John had won the previous eleven titles coaching Nashua.

Gatorade’s NH Player-of-the-Year Aliza Simpson finishes a winner and will be off to UNH in the fall.  Aliza had sixteen points to lead all scorers as well as six assists.

The loss ends a 39-game win streak for Bedford the defending D1 state champs.

The ending of this year’s D1 championship finals will be hard to forget for anyone who was part of the full house at SNHU.

The Bulldogs (21-1) took a five-point lead (54-49) into the final 2:49 of the game.  But in a minute the Lancers drew even with an old-fashioned three (Jackie Luckhardt) and a jump shot (Aliza Simpson).

Finals seconds as Aliza Simpson dribbles.  Note Brittany Roche in left corner

Finals seconds as Aliza Simpson dribbles. Note Brittany Roche in left corner

On Bedford’s next possession, Aliza Simpson tracked down a loose ball in the corner and called a timeout.

With no shot clock, Londonderry (19-3) had plenty of options with 1:20 left.  They opted to run the clock and look for something with very little time left.

At that point I would have bet the store that Aliza would get the final shot on some sort of drive toward the basket.  And that may have been Londonderry’s plan.

Brittany Roche

Brittany Roche

What actually happened was very surprising.  With close to fifteen seconds left sophomore Jackie Luckhardt drove in from the right toward the basket.  I thought at the time that it was way too early for a shot to be taken.  Jackie, however, did not shoot but instead drove under the basket and tossed a bounce pass to junior Brittany Roche in the left corner.  Brittany, called “Big Shot” by her coach and teammates, was wide open and nailed a truly big shot with twelve seconds left giving Londonderry a 3-point lead.

Plenty of time for Bedford to get those three points back and they had at least two timeouts left.  McKenzie Brown misfired on their first 3-point attempt but Bedford maintained possession.  After a timeout Brianna Purcell attempted to tie the game with a second three.  That try was short and Nicole Tucci put in a 2-point rebound at the buzzer.  The Bulldogs still trailed by one, 57-56, and Londonderry’s celebrating began.

Bedford’s biggest lead was six (35-29) while Londonderry’s biggest lead was seven (26-19 & 29-22).

The Lancers made the first attempt to separate getting nine straight late in the second quarter to turn a 19-17 Bulldogs lead into a 26-19 deficit with a minute left.  Aliza Simpson had a three (off the backboard) and a jump shot during this run while Brittany Roche had a jump shot and Tara Burke added a layup.

McKenzie Brown gets a rebound

McKenzie Brown gets a rebound

Bedford’s best collection of offense was in the third quarter.  During 4+ minutes the Bulldogs turned a 29-22 deficit into a 35-29 lead with thirteen unanswered points.  McKenzie Brown converted two rebounds, Brianna Purcell had a three and a driving layup, Ali Glennon added an old-fashioned three, and Haley Driscoll made a free throw.

As the points in the 13-point run continued to roll up for Bedford, I thought the Bulldogs were on their way to taking total control, but it didn’t happen.  Casey Evans stopped the bleeding for the Lancers with an old-fashioned three and Elizabeth Caron hit a jump shot putting Londonderry right back in it.

There were three ties and three lead changes in the last quarter in a game that’s outcome was in doubt until the end.

The loss took the luster off of terrific games by Bedford’s seniors McKenzie Brown and Ali Glennon.  McKenzie contributed a double/double (13 points/12 rebounds).  Ali added eleven points.

Ali Glennon and Aliza Simpson

Ali Glennon and Aliza Simpson

Brianna Purcell started out guarding Aliza Simpson but two quick fouls later it was Ali’s turn to defend Aliza.  I thought Ali did a great job of hounding Aliza everywhere she went.  Anyone taking pictures of Aliza with the ball is sure to have Ali somewhere in the picture.  Aliza did end up with sixteen points but it took her fifteen shots to get there because of the defense she faced.

Jackie Luckhardt of Londonderry led everyone with seven assists and none bigger than the one that set up Brittany Roche for what became the game-winning three.

The killer stat for Bedford was free throws.  They missed eleven of them (17-for-28) and one was the front end of a one-and-one.

Aliza Simpson with D1 trophy

Aliza Simpson with D1 trophy

Aliza Simpson missed eight games and all three of the Lancers’ losses including a 50-36 one to Bedford.

Bedford won easily over Keene, Trinity, and Nashua North to reach the D1 finals.  Londonderry had a tight one with Pinkerton Academy (42-38) in the D1 semis.

Great crowd with plenty of cheering and chanting from both sides.

Hats off to the SNHU security for completely preventing the dangerous end-of-game student rush onto the court.

Thanks to the SNHU staff for providing me with half-time and full-game stats.  Lessens the guesswork.

Full-game stats

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Bedford coach Sue Thomas

Bedford coach Sue Thomas

Aliza Simpson tries to get free

Aliza Simpson tries to get free

McKenzie Brown shoots a late three over Casey Evans

McKenzie Brown shoots a late three over Casey Evans

Aliza Simpson attracts three defenders

Aliza Simpson attracts three defenders

battle for the ball

battle for the ball

rebound battle

rebound battle

Jackie Luckhardt (10 points) drives on Haley Driscoll

Jackie Luckhardt (10 points) drives on Haley Driscoll

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