MANCHESTER— Something had to give and it did favorably for legendary coach John Fagula and his gritty Lancers.
Brittany Roche's 3-point shot with 12.3 seconds left lifted second-ranked Londonderry to a 57-56 Division I girls' basketball championship win, snapping top-ranked Bedford's 39-game winning streak. The win allowed Fagula to ride off into retirement with his 12th overall state title.
"I wanted to win this championship for our girls, not for me" said Fagula, who ended his career with a 627-105 career record in 32 career seasons at Nashua and Londonderry combined. It was his first title with the Lanc- ers. "None of this is going to sink in until I get home and reflect on what just happened," said Fagula. "No question, this was an emotional day and as it turned out, an emotional game. It had so many twists and turns and fortunately Brittany made the last biggest shot to win it."
Bedford coach Sue Thomas, who guided her program to a state title last season, told her team after the game to hold their heads high.
"I told them we had a great season and to not let one shot in the final minute define our season," said Thomas. "Sure we wanted to win it, but to finish with a 21-1 record is something to be proud of. I wouldn't want to coach another team. I'm so proud of my girls and proud how hard they fought to the end."
The game was tied at 54-54 when, with 1:20 remaining, Londonderry standout Aliza Simpson, who tallied a game-high 16 points, stole the ball and called timeout.
"Out of the timeout, I told my team Bedford had 10 team fouls and the next one would put us on the line for two free throws," said Fagula. "We were expecting Bedford to come out aggressive and foul us. As it turned out, we ended up killing most of the clock and getting a big basket from Roche. For us, it was a win-win result, leaving them with little time."
Roche, who had the big three-point shot in the final two minutes to beat Pinkerton 42-38 last Thursday in the semifinals, collected a baseline pass from teammate Jaclyn Luckhardt before letting her shot fly.
"It felt good when I let it go," said Roche, who hit a similar shot on the opposite end of the court against Pinkerton. "The corner is my favorite shooting place and Jaclyn found me. No one was on me and I got a great look at the basket."
In the final 12 seconds, Bedford missed two three-point shots before Nicole Tucci scored a layup at the buzzer for the final score.
Mckenzie Brown, who supplied Bedford with a late 54-49 lead with 2:49 left, had 13 points and 12 rebounds. Ali Glennon had 11 points for the 21-1 Bulldogs.
Londonderry finished its season at 19-3.
It was a momentum-swing type of game. Bedford took an early 12-7 lead behind two 3-point shots from Rachel Collins (nine points). In the second quarter, Londonderry tied the game at 17 on a 3-pointer by Elizabeth Caron and with 3:31 left in the half, the Lancers took their first lead (20-19) of the game on another 3-point bomb from Simpson.
The lead grew to 24-19 on consecutive baskets from Tara Burke and Roche before Londonderry settled for a 26-22 halftime lead.
It appeared Londonderry was going to pull away at the start of the second half when Simpson buried a 3-point shot for a 29-22 lead. But suddenly Bedford heard the alarm clock go off and that's when Brown and Brianna Purcell (eight points) stepped up on offense.
Bedford shot 8 of 25 from the floor in the first half, mainly because, outside of Collins, the rest of the team couldn't find the hot hand.
So they turned to Brown inside who made a couple of shots, including a putback. Purcell, left open, hit two jumpers, including a trifecta to give Bedford a 32-29 lead.
A conventional three-point play by Glennon capped a 13-0 run for a 35-29 lead. Evans finally broke the spurt with a three-point play and teammate Elizabeth Caron added a layup to pull Londonderry back into the game at 35-34.
By quarter's end, Glennon hit a runner in the final second, giving the defending champs a 40-38 edge.
When Bedford took a 53-49 with 3:01 left, Fagula called timeout. "I just told my team Bedford just made its run, now we've got to make ours. It's now or we don't win this."
Following a free throw by Purcell, giving Bedford a 54-49 lead, Londonderry answered with an 8-0 run capped by Roche's game-winning shot.
"You have to credit Londonderry for not only coming back, but for making a tough shot to win it," said Thomas. "You can't ask any more from our defense. We forced them to take a tough 3-pointer from the corner and Roche made it."