EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

March 17, 2014

Simpson proved to be just what Londonderry needed to beat Bedford

By Christopher Smith
csmith@eagletribune.com

---- — MANCHESTER — Brittany Roche netted the game-winning 3-point shot for Londonderry, but senior point guard Aliza Simpson proved to be the difference-maker.

The second-seeded Lancers won 57-56 over previously-unbeaten Bedford, the top seed, here in the Division 1 championship game at Southern New Hampshire University last night.

Bedford, which was in search of its second straight Division 1 title, had beaten the Lancers 50-36 on Feb. 19 but Simpson did not play in that contest because of a fracture below her kneecap. In the previous meeting, the Lancers led 14-9 after the first quarter and 25-22 at halftime but turnovers caused them to give away the game to Bedford in the second half.

Simpson, who poured in a game-high 16 points last night, did a nice job spreading the basketball out among her teammates. Nine different Lancers scored baskets. Simpson finished with six assists.

Yes, the point guard made a few mistakes. She turned the basketball over four times. But she kept her composure down the stretch and helped Londonderry come back after trailing by five points with 2:49 remaining.

“No one person won that game,” Simpson said.

Simpson — who also made a terrific hustle play to gain possession of a loose ball with under 1:30 left, never received a chance to help her team to victory in the 2012 Division 1 title game against Bishop Guertin when she she fouled out with 5:37 left. The Lancers ended up losing by three points to BG. As a freshman, Simpson’s Londonderry team lost in the title game to Winnacunnet.

“I let those (two losses) escape my mind,” Simpson said. “I just came in and played my game.”

Simpson did admit she tried her best to stay out of foul trouble early. She finished with three fouls. All three came during the second half.

Simpson missed eight games this winter because of her fracture. She said her knee hurt a lot during Londonderry’s win over Pinkerton in the semifinals Thursday.

“I iced it like crazy, took so many Ibuprofens,” she said. “But today with everything going on, yeah, there’s moments where it hurt but ... the fans picked me up and it just kind of escaped my mind.”

Junior forward Casey Evans finished with seven points and eight rebounds. She said her teammates’ ability to set screens made it easier for Simpson to distribute the basketball.

“And then after that we’ll usually post up or get ready for a shot and just crash for the boards,” Evans said.

Evans said earning the win for both Simpson and longtime coach John Fagula, who retired at the end of the game, felt great.

Evans said about Fagula, “I think he was in shock that we just won. We’re going to miss him very much.”

WHAT A SHOT!

Brittany Roche’s 3-pointer to break a 54-54 tie with 12.3 seconds sent shockwaves across the gym.

“I knew it was going to go in just the way the ball looked,” she said.

Roche netted the game-winning shot in both the championship and semifinals.

The 6-0 forward said nobody in her family plays basketball besides her. She started playing in third grade and it is her only sport. She hopes to play in college.

ODDS AND ENDS

Fagula knew his team had to control Bedford 5-8 point guard Rachel Collins’ 3-point shooting. Collins made two early 3s but that was all ... Bedford trailed 26-22 at halftime but came out hard in the third period and held a 35-29 edge with 2:49 left in the quarter. But Londonderry outscored Bedford 5-0 the rest of the period to pull within 35-34 heading into the fourth. ... Londonderry shot 45.5 percent from the floor and 46.7 percent (7-15) from 3-point range. ... Simpson netted three 3s. Kelsey Coffey, Liz Caron and Roche each added one. ... Bedford shot 36.0 percent from the field and 18.8 percent from 3-point land.