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NHIAA Basketball Tournament: Girls take the stage

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 02. 2015 8:26PM

Over the last four seasons, Bedford or Londonderry has participated in the Division I girls’ basketball championship. Londonderry has been to three of the last four and Bedford has competed in the last two. Last year, the Lancers sent retiring coach John Fagula out with a lasting memory when they spoiled Bedford’s quest for an undefeated season with a 57-56 decision at Southern New Hampshire University.

Nothing has changed this season. On Monday, the NHIAA released the official pairings for the Division I and II girls’ tournaments and Division III and IV boys’ tournaments. No. 1 Bedford and No. 2 Londonderry, both 16-2, are on another collision course to the state final again.

“They’re the top two favorites,” said Manchester Central coach Mike Wenners. “Londonderry is big and physical, and Bedford, which is a guard-oriented team, has speed and quickness.”

The teams split during the regular season, the Bulldogs winning by one at home on Dec. 19 and the Lancers prevailing by 18 at home on Jan. 16.

The 16-team Division I tournament begins today at 7 p.m. at the higher-seed’s gym. Wenners said the matchup between host No. 8 Manchester Memorial and No. 9 Winnacunnet of Hampton is the most intriguing game in the first round. “Memorial has talent, and Winnacunnet has won six of its last seven games,” said Wenners. “The team that scares me is Nashua North. They’re not a big team, but they’re very athletic and they love to run the floor.”

Central (14-4) has won seven straight games and 12 of its last 13. The Little Green are seeded third, their highest ranking in five seasons.

“We’ve been rotating nine players into the game and it has worked well because all nine girls have accepted their roles,” said Wenners, now in his 12th season.

Coe-Brown of Northwood (18-0) is the top seed heading into Wednesday’s first-round action in Division II. The Bears, who captured their only Division II title in 2000, were runner-up to state champion Merrimack Valley of Penacook last season.

Four games involving teams seeded 13 through 20 headline the start of the Division III boys’ tournament today at 7 p.m. Conant of Jaffrey is the defending two-time state champ, seeded third this season.

Epping, a 74-70 winner last season over Sunapee for the Division IV crown, is seeded third this season heading into today’s Division IV boys tournament. No. 1 Littleton and No. 2 Derryfield of Manchester both ended the regular season at 17-1, followed by Epping, Colebrook and Wilton-Lyndeborough, all at 14-4.

Moultonborough coach Matt Swedberg doesn’t believe there’s a clear-cut favorite in the Division IV tourney, which starts today.

“The top five teams are all big threats, and teams six through nine are right there, too,” he said. “Many of the teams have that point guard-shooting guard combination that is hard to defend.”

Moultonborough, ranked ninth, will have a chance to avenge last year’s first-round home loss to No. 8 Woodsville. “We lost to them by a point at our place last season,” said Swedberg. “I’m anticipating another close game and hopefully the bounce of the ball will go our way this time.”

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