By Chuck Frye
LONDONDERRY — Maybe things came too easy for Londonderry at the start. Maybe the adrenaline of the first playoff game wore off too fast. Maybe Merrimack's zone defense became too stingy.
Whatever the reason, the third seeded Lancers came out blazing, scoring the game's first 11 points in less than two minutes of action, then iced up with only four more points over the next 12 minutes. While the fans of the No. 14 Tomahawks whooped and hollered due to their team's eight-point lead, Londonderry head coach John Fagula stayed calm and fought hard to keep his squad on track.
Using a tried-and-true solution, Fagula extended his trapping defense full-court and it easily did the trick. A pair of late 3-pointers drew the Lancers within three at the break as Merrimack had trouble getting into its sets when it had the ball and Londonderry's energy spilled over to its own offensive end.
Behind the persistant shooting of senior Callie King (25 points including five 3's), the Lancers ran away for a 63-45 victory and will host No. 6 Nashua North (11-7) in the quarterfinals tomorrow night at 7 p.m.
Londonderry (15-4) defeated North, 46-32 on Feb. 19 as part of the Lancers' current nine-game winning streak.
"I'm proud of how the kids came back," Fagula said. "They hit some shots at the end of the second quarter to get some confidence and the third quarter was just spectacular."
After a frigid first-half start where King, despite having nine points, missed 7 of 8 3-point attempts, Fagula told the team to stay the course.
"I told them not to be afraid to take their shots," said Fagula, "don't be afraid to do what we're doing. A lot of kids, when they're not on, won't be looking for their offense but they need to be more aggressive."
Feeding off the defense, which held the Tomahawks (8-11) to only eight third-quarter shot attempts and four points, three 3's from King and two more from Jaymi Uphold (13 points) turned the tide and gave the Lancers a daunting 14-point advantage at 45-31.
"I had to keep shooting," King explained as she finished 8 of 16 from the field, 5 of 13 from beyond the arc. "If I don't, Coach will kill me."
Helping open up the court for King and Uphold was junior Savanna Butterfield (10 points and 8 rebounds), effectively working give-and-go's from the high post and driving the lane with power.
Her physical fall-away jumper from the left baseline turned into a three-point play with 5:04 left in the game, countering a 5-0 Merrimack run spurred by high scorer Rachael Carter (19 points) and essentially locking the game away at 53-38.
"Savanna can either kick the ball out or turn and face the defense in the block," Fagula said. "She was a little more effective at the foul line area, and her hard work caused the defense to condense and get us open space."
Londonderry 63, Merrimack 45
Class L first round
Merrimack (45): Rachael Carter 6 6-8 19, Ashley Darling 4 1-2 10, Kate Cole 3 0-0 8, Molly Flynn 1 1-2 4, Danielle Donahue 1 0-0 2, Maycie Wheelin 1 0-2 2, Maggie Kenney 0 0-0 0, Paige Corbett 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 8-14 45
Londonderry (63): Callie King 8 4-4 25, Jaymi Uphold 3 4-4 13, Savanna Butterfield 3 4-6 10, Courtney Morissette 3 0-0 6, Allie Moloney 0 3-6 3, Lindsey Bolduc 1 0-1 3, Shannon Thompson 1 0-0 3, Daniele Crutcher 0 0-0 0, Christina Pescia 0 0-0 0, Kelly Hunt 0 0-0 0, Catherine Cloutier 0 0-0 0, Lucy Holewa 0 0-0 0. Totals 19 15-21 63
3-pointers: M — Cole 2, Darling, Carter, Flynn; L — King 5, Uphold 3, Bolduc, Thompson
Merrimack (8-11):14âÇ13âÇâÇ4âÇ14 — 45
Londonderry (15-4):16âÇâÇ8âÇ21âÇ18 — 63
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