MANCHESTER — Senior star Aliza Simpson, who will play at UNH next year, was selected as the Gatorade New Hampshire Player of the Year early yesterday.
But when crunch time came in the Division 1 semifinals last night, her teammate, unsung sophomore Jackie Luckhardt, made the play of the season.
Luckhardt, a 5-7 guard in her first varsity season, made a steal with just over a minute remaining when the Lancers led Pinkerton by only one point. She almost immediately was fouled.
Luckhardt, faced with a 1-and-1 situation, made both free throws. From there, second-seeded Londonderry won 42-38 over rival Pinkerton, the sixth seed, here at Southern New Hampshire University.
“It was very big for us to get the steal because we were able to get possession, relax and calm things down,” Luckhardt said.
Relax? How exactly could Luckhardt relax heading to the foul line in a one-point semifinal game?
“I just try to block all the noise and stare at the rim and take deep breaths and don’t think about the situation,” she said.
Londonderry will play defending champ Bedford in the Division 1 title game Sunday at 6 p.m. here at SNHU. Bedford routed Nashua North, 68-31, in the other semifinal yesterday.
Sunday’s game, win or lose, will mark John Fagula’s final contest as a head coach. The Londonderry coach will retire following the championship.
Fagula, a N.H. legend, spent the first 20 years of his coaching career with the Nashua girls, going 432-72, including winning 120 straight games against New Hampshire teams at one point. With Nashua, he won 11 Class L titles and had five nationally ranked teams. His 1987 Nashua squad won the USA Today national title. The coach also captured his 600 career victory last winter.
Fagula has been wearing one of his Nashua championship rings during this final playoff run.