TONIGHT'S matchup between Bedford and Londonderry may feature the two best girls' basketball teams in the state. It's a big game for sure, but not big enough for Londonderry point guard Aliza Simpson to alter the timetable for her return.
Simpson, a senior, has missed Londonderry's last seven games while recovering from a hairline fracture above her right kneecap suffered during a victory against Dover on Jan. 27. She's close to game ready, but Londonderry coach John Fagula said Simpson will not play in Bedford tonight (6:30).
"She hasn't really done anything on the basketball court other than drills," Fagula said. "We're not going to put her out on the floor without her doing full speed up-and-down stuff in practice.
"There's no question not having Aliza changes the way we will approach things offensively and defensively. The only plus is it doesn't give them a good look at what we would potentially be like with her."
Simpson, who has committed to play for the University of New Hampshire, is averaging 19 points and 8.5 assists per game.
"All of us wish she was ready," Bedford coach Sue Thomas said. "We want to play the best.
"Aliza is a huge factor, but basketball is a team sport and they're a good team without her."
Bedford, which won last year's Division II championship, will enter tonight's game with a 14-0 record. Londonderry is 13-2 overall, and 5-2 without Simpson.
Fagula said he expects Simpson to play some in Friday night's game at Trinity of Manchester.
"We'll try to ease her in a little bit," Fagula said. "You know this kid isn't going to go half-speed. That's not how she's wired. It's all or nothing. The big concern is to protect her for down the road — and not just for this year."
The Lancers will be facing a Bedford team that's balanced and deep. Eight players have led Bedford in scoring in at least one game this season.
"That's what I admire most about this team," Thomas said. "It's about team winning — team scoring."
Point guard Bri Purcell, shooting guard Rachel Collins and forwards Haley Driscoll and McKenzie Brown are among Bedford's key players. Londonderry has relied more on forward Casey Evans since Simpson's injury.
"At some point we would like to play Londonderry with Aliza," Thomas said. "We want to remain undefeated, but our ultimate goal is to repeat as state champion."
TONIGHT'S Londonderry-Bedford boys' basketball game looks like a good one as well, especially since Bedford has become the team no one wants to face in the Division I tournament's preliminary round.
The Bulldogs lost seven of their first eight Division I games, but stretched their winning streak to six games and improved to 7-7 by beating Spaulding of Rochester 61-48 Monday night.
Londonderry, which will be at home tonight (7), is 13-2 and tied with Merrimack for third place in the Division I standings.
THE Milford girls' basketball team is 13-1 and owns sole possession of first place in Division II. The Spartans will get a chance to avenge their only loss when they face Souhegan of Amherst in Milford tonight (5).
Souhegan (11-3), which is in third place, beat Milford 37-26 in Amherst on Jan. 10. The Sabers took control of that game with an 18-0 run that began in the second quarter and spilled into the third.
The postseason will kick off Tuesday, when the preliminary round of the Division III and Division IV girls' basketball tournaments will be held at home sites.
Campbell of Litchfield, Fall Mountain Regional of Langdon and Newfound Regional of Bristol are each 16-1 and tied for first place in Division III. Hinsdale is 16-0 and the lone unbeaten team in Division IV.
Roger Brown covers high school sports for the New Hampshire Union Leader and Sunday News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @603SportsMedia.