Londonderry Lancers Girls Basketball '07-'08

Wed, Mar 05, 2008 06:00 PM @ Neutral Location - Southern New Hampshire University
Team 1 2 3 4 Final
Playoff Game Class L Tournament - Semifinals
Londonderry 11 13 3 12 39
Manchester Central 14 12 12 18 56
Londonderry Vs. Manchester Central » Jarrod Thompson, Staff PhotographerMore photos

'Wait ‘til next year?' Gladly!

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Thursday, March, 06 By Ryan Lambert
Staff writer

In the dying minutes of last night's game, with Londonderry trailing by more than a dozen points, the boisterous Manchester Central student section began what they felt would be a derisive chant.

"Wait 'til next year." Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap. Fill-in coach Nick Theos had to laugh.

"I thought it was funny when their fans were chanting, 'Maybe next year,'" he said after his team fell to the Little Green, 55-39, in the Class L semifinal game. "I was like, 'Exactly.' I was thinking we'd be back in this same situation next year. I was happy they were chanting that, because I have a feeling we will be going to the semis next year."

At least.

Londonderry will lose some key contributors to graduation, like Nicole Heffernan | she had probably had the best game for the Lancers with six points and some tough defense | and key reserve Elise Berry.

But a large portion of the team is startlingly young. The Lancers went 14-4 in the regular season and earned the third seed with only two or three seniors getting into the game most nights. The primary contributions, obviously, have come from other sources.

Leading scorer Callie King, who averaged 10.7 points per night over the Lancers' 21-game campaign? Just a sophomore. Promising 6-foot forward/center Savanna Butterfield, who singlehandedly kept the Lancers in the game early with five first-quarter points before she ran into foul trouble? A freshman. Courtney Morissette, who led the Lancers with seven points? Also a sophomore.

All told, 10 of the Lancers' 14 dressed players were juniors or younger. The reason the game slipped away, said Theos, who was filling in for ailing head coach John Fagula, was experience.

"They're good, strong," he said of the more experienced Little Green, who boast arguably two of the 10 best players in the state. "You see the difference between a senior who's been doing this four years and a freshman like Savanna. They're smarter, they're more physical. They want to have that pressure (of a playoff game), and the other kids don't want that pressure yet.

"You can see it. It's a noticeable difference. But what we've got now is kids that are starting to get that experience as a freshman, and as a sophomore. In the next couple of years, they'll be able to fill those shoes a little bit better."

Butterfield, who didn't seem at all out of her element in the early going, concurred.

"I was really nervous," she said. "I kind of wish that I did better and I helped my teammates more."

But Butterfield helped more than the coaches probably expected. She struggled to play defense at the JV level earlier this year, but here she was, making a strong contribution in a state semifinal game. Theos, who also coached the JV team to a 17-1 record | the loss was by one point | and a state title could, spoke of her in glowing terms.

"She rebounds well, she's athletic, and she has a natural ability to play basketball," said Theos. "She's going to be a fun kid to watch for the next three years. She can, at moments without even trying sometimes, take over a game. Athletically, she's not going to run across many kids who are athletic as she is.

"She needs to get stronger. There's no two ways about that. She learned, from the beginning of the year playing with us at JV and having a difficult time playing defense at that level, to going out in key situations for the varsity squad in the last month or so. She's not a finished player yet, but she's got a good start | a better start than most kids."

Even Theos, who turns 33 today, did well in his first full game as a varsity coach. Though his only other varsity experience was the final 1:16 after Fagula collapsed on Sunday, he acquitted himself well.

And as for all those Central students, who chanted, "Aiiir baaall," every time a Londonderry shot went awry, Fagula can rest easy knowing he probably won't have to deal with them for a while.

"This is it for them, for a couple years anyway," he said. "They lose six kids, that's a lot."

Meanwhile, Londonderry isn't going anywhere.

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