Londonderry was the Division 1 runner-up the past two years and it has four returning starters this winter. So you would think the Lancers would be primed to make the championship game again or win it all.
Londonderry, however, has struggled some with losses to Bedford, Bishop Guertin, Pinkerton and Salem.
“I’ve actually kind of pondered what the difference is from this year and last year,” Londonderry star point guard Aliza Simpson said recently. “I don’t really have an (exact) answer for that.”
But Simpson did point out some areas where she and her teammates are struggling.
First, her team has several good 3-point shooters, so if the shots from long range aren’t dropping, that can be a problem.
“Just hitting those shots brings momentum,” Simpson said. “Once we start missing shots right at the beginning, it certainly hurts our momentum throughout the game. It’s really hard for us to pick it up.”
Secondly, Londonderry lost some physicality from last year’s team by graduating Lindsey Bolduc, who was the lone starter not to return.
The Lancers aren’t controlling things down low and have lacked some points from the paint.
“Last year, we had Lindsey who helped with boards and down low and she was just a physical player,” Simpson said. “So we’re definitely missing out on her.”
Thirdly, Simpson said she must play better in big games.
“I think I’ve been playing well in games that we’re supposed to win,” Simpson said. “But in big games so far, like BG and Pinkerton, I feel like I need to be able to step up and help the team with more points.
“And I’m focusing more on ratio of turnovers to assists,” Simpson added. “That’s what my coach is always telling me. I’ve been happy with that ratio for the most part all season.”
LOTS OF INTEREST
Simpson has been offered basketball scholarships by several college programs (UNH, Sacred Heart, Southern New Hampshire, Holy Cross).
She also has received interest from Brown and was scheduled to visit there this weekend to watch the team play.
She said she thinks she will make her decision by the end of this academic year.
CONNORS TO PLAY AT BATES
Windham High senior Bernadette Connors was accepted early decision at Bates College, which is in the NESCAC, and she plans to play basketball there.
Connors was an Eagle-Tribune All-Star as a junior, averaging 10.7 points per game and netting 32 3-pointers. She shot 40 percent from 3-point range last year and averaged 16.0 ppg in three playoff games.
Connors is in the top 15 percent of her class at Windham.
“(School) is really something I’ve dedicated my time to,” she said. “I’ve always put academics first. I’ve worked really worked hard to get the grades that I do. I don’t think it’s easy. I think it’s something I’ve really had to work for.”
Connors isn’t completely sure what she want to study but is thinking about pursuing economics.
Right now, Connors is focused on her final high school season though. She is one of three starters for the Jaguars returning from last year’s squad, which lost in the Division 2 semifinals.
“We lost (graduated) our starting post-players and we’ve had to have girls step up and adjust our team a little bit but only for the better,” she said.
North Andover’s Morgan Lumb (out since Jan. 15 with a sprained ankle) started practicing again Wednesday.
She practiced again Thursday and could play today vs. Andover at 6 p.m.
“I think we have a really good chance of doing well (in the tournament), especially with her back,” Lumb’s teammate Pam Coufos said. “When she’s out there, she just makes plays and she just pushes everybody to work harder and do better. Without her, we struggled to score. We weren’t playing bad. We just had a really hard time getting the ball in the hoop.”
For what Pentucket lacks in offense at times, it makes up for in defense.
“We’ve been in a shooting slump until tonight (Tuesday) so we’re grinding it out defensively,” Pentucket coach John McNamara said. “When things aren’t going well, our defense steps up.”
Coley Viselli certainly had a nice offensive performance Tuesday, netting 15 points and adding five assists. She also grabbed eight rebounds.
WATCH OUT FOR GONZALEZ
Andover senior guard Angelice Gonzalez has really picked up her game recently. She netted four 3-pointers and made seven steals and three blocks during Andover’s 57-52 win over Methuen this past Tuesday.
“Her last six games she’s been playing really, really, well,” Andover coach Jim Tildsley said. “And Rebecca (Alois) is playing well on the boards. Every game is a battle for us.”
PLAYER OF WEEK
Salem’s Brenna Blakslee is the Player of the Week after netting five 3-pointers and 29 points to help the Blue Devils post a 71-62 upset win over Londonderry on Tuesday.
“That was a great win,” Blakslee said. “Our team really worked together and we’ve really been improving our defense and offense this season.”
1. Pinkerton 15-1
2. Pentucket 17-1
3. Andover 13-3
4. Central Catholic 13-4
5. Whittier 15-2
Honorable mention: Windham 12-5, Londonderry 10-4, Salem 9-7
*Include non-division games