---- — With their amiable coach John Fagula set to retire when the season ended, the Londonderry girls did the unthinkable: They beat previously unbeaten, defending champion Bedford to win the Division 1 state title.
Londonderry is this year’s Eagle-Tribune Girls Basketball Team of the Year.
The Lancers finished the season 21-3, 16-0 when star point guard Aliza Simpson, who missed eight games because of a fracture below her kneecap, played.
The Lancers featured only two players, Simpson and Casey Evans, who averaged double figures in scoring. But they played pesky on the defensive end where youngsters such as sophomore Jackie Luckhardt stepped up and displayed a relentless style. Luckhardt started the winter splitting time between JV and varsity but became a key starter by year’s end.
Tip your cap to Londonderry, which gritted out wins with strong and smart play late in games.
And tip your cap one final time to Fagula, who seemed extremely confident his girls could beat Bedford when interviewed before the tourney. Fagula finished his historic career with 12 state titles and 624 wins.
MASS TEAM OF THE YEAR: Central Catholic
Despite not repeating as state champions, Central Catholic put together a heck of a year, featuring a talented foursome of returning starters: Amanda Williams (18.3 points per game, 9.7 rebounds per game), Courtney Walsh (11.5 ppg, 4.0 assists per game, 82.9 percent foul shooting), Alex Nagri (7.7 ppg, 3.1 steals per game) and Caitlin Dell’Orfano (9.7 ppg).
The Raiders finished with a 21-2 record after losing 52-49 to Lynn English in the Division 1 North title game.
VERSATILITY AWARD: Katelyn Surprenant
The Pelham 5-5 swing player played four positions and guarded much taller players. As her coach Bob Shepard, pointed out, she used her speed to average 11.0 rebounds and 5.0 steals per game.
“She was our Timex watch; she took a licking but kept on ticking,” Shepard said.
UNSUNG HERO: Leigh-Ann Trepanier
The Fellowship Christian junior guard averaged 15.2 points in 19 games. She poured in 25 points as Fellowship rolled 37-19 over New England 37-19 to end a losing streak that dated back to the 2009-10 season.
Trepanier scored 57 percent of Fellowship’s points this season.
BEST STORY: Rachael Cormier
Andover junior Cormier lost her father Warren to a massive heart attack Aug. 27.
But through her pain, Cormier showed amazing strength. Rachael kept her dad’s mass card in the pocket of her basketball bag. She also had a good cry before every game.
“I can’t believe she’s always smiling and I think about how much of an impact her dad had on her basketball life and also on her life,” coach E.J. Perry said during the season. “She’s amazing to watch.”
MOST IMPROVED: Amanda Williams
Most players presented the most improved award aren’t Eagle-Tribune All-Stars the previous year. Williams, Central’s 6-0 forward/center, is a worthy exception.
The senior averaged 18.3 points and 9.7 rebounds per game — an increase from 10.0 points and 7.9 rebounds per game as a junior.
As her teammates mentioned during the season, Williams took it upon herself to step and become Central’s go-to presence in the paint after the graduation of last year’s Eagle-Tribune MVP Casey McLaughlin.
Williams tossed in a career-high 30 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to lift Central over Lowell on Jan 17. She then posted 28 points and 15 rebounds to lead the Raiders past Dracut the next game.
She went from being a good player to a dominating force locally. She will play volleyball at St. Anselm next year.
DEFENSIVE AWARD: Colleen Fortier
Fortier, a Pinkerton 5-8 senior forward, took 23 charges this season.
“She was a neutralizing force in the paint,” Astros coach Lani Buskey noted.
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR: Leah Chittick
The North Andover junior made a strong comeback this basketball season after missing most of her fall soccer season with a sprained ankle. She entered the winter less than 100 percent physically but worked hard to return to top physical shape, coach Megan Ryan said.
Chittick averaged 6.8 points over her first six games. She finished the winter averaging 14.6 points per game in 21 contests.
CLUTCH AWARD: Brittany Roche
Roche, a 6-0 Londonderry forward, established herself as a fearless shooter during the playoffs by hitting the game-winning shot in both the Lancers’ Division 1 semifinal win over Pinkerton and the championship game victory over top-seeded Bedford.
She converted a wide open 3-pointer along the baseline with 12.3 seconds left to break a 54-54 tie against Bedford. Roche hit the same shot from the corner to give the Lancers a one-point lead with 2 minutes left in the semifinals.
BEST GAME: Pentucket and North Reading
Pentucket gained its first lead of the game in the third overtime. Behind a career-high 32 points by Kelsi McNamara, the Sachems stunned North Reading 60-52 in three OTs. Seventeen of McNamara’s 32 points came in overtime.
The Sachems trailed by nine with 2:50 left and rallied to tie it.
The Hornets also led by three points with 13 seconds left in the second OT but McNamara converted a 3 to tie it.
McNamara had a heck of a season again. After she made The Eagle-Tribune All-Star team last winter by averaging 10.5 points per game with 33 3-pointers, McNamara averaged 16.1 points with 62 3-pointers this year.
SHOOTING SHOW OF THE YEAR: Allie Sirmaian
Sirmaian, a 5-5, sophomore guard for Salem, netted 9 of 11 3-pointers in a win over Manchester Central. Salem needed every bit of Sirmaian’s dominance in a two-point win.
“I cannot wait to see the damage that Allie will do on the court in the future,” Salem coach Michaela Galvin said. “She has a great basketball career ahead of her.”
MOST IMPROVED TEAM: Lawrence
After just a 3-17 campaign last winter, Lawrence posted a 8-12 mark this season, going 4-10 in the MVC.
Look for more improvement from the Lancers next year because they should return their two top scorers, junior Genesis Santana (13.8 ppg, 6.0 apg) and sophomore Aria Tate (11.8 ppg).
SISTER COMBO OF YEAR: Carrolls of Methuen
Murphy Carroll netted 39 3-pointers and Madison Carroll added 20 3s. Both were senior guards and tri-captains along with Nicole Carroll, who is not related.
TOP RETURNING DUO IN ‘15: Caveney and Casey
Colleen Caveney, a 5-7 junior guard for Andover, had a breakout year in 2013-14.
She averaged 14.5 points and 4.1 rebounds per game, knocked down 19 3-pointers and scored 20 or more points in six different games. She also led the team with 4.1 steals per game.
Caveney scored over 2,100 on her SATs and is being recruited by the Ivy League and the NESCAC schools, coach E.J. Perry said.
Meanwhile, freshman teammate Alyssa Casey, a 5-10 forward, averaged 10.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game.
With these two returning next year, Andover should be set to compete for the 2015 Division 1 North title.