“Sensation at Salem:” The Legendary Babe Zaharias’s Historic 1954 U.S. Open Victory at Salem Country Club

New from Gary Larrabee……….

“Sensation at Salem:” The Legendary Babe Zaharias’s Historic 1954 U.S. Open Victory at Salem Country Club…

…is considered the greatest single tournament achievement by a woman professional golfer to this day.
The story of the week when Babe staged an amazing performance on a suburban Boston golf course while battling cancer and carrying a colostomy bag, defeating the field by 12 strokes, is chronicled like never before!

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Danvers Boys Cagers Come Up Short At Beverly, Fall 68-66; Two Comebacks Keyed By Francois (28) Not Enough; After Spectacular Start, Falcons Struggle With 3-pointers (8-for-28); Must Wait Until Feb. 24 To Clinch NEC Large Title At Peabody

Two minutes into Thursday night’s highly anticipated rematch at Beverly, the Danvers High boys basketball team led 11-2 after making its first four shots, three of them from three-point land. But as had been the case in its three prior losses, one by two points another by one, their three-point game went cold at the wrong time, finishing 8-for-28, 5-for-16 in the second half. Win by the sword and sometimes lose by the sword, in this case a heavily accented three-point shooting offense.

Combine that factor with Beverly’s significant edge with its inside power game and shooting guard Sam Traicoff’s 26 points (though he got plenty of help), the host Panthers (13-5) were able to win its seventh in a row while snapping Danvers’ eight-game win streak, 68-66, before an enthusiastic crowd.

Most important, the Falcons (13-4, 12-3 in the NEC Large) may have to wait until their one remaining Conference game at Peabody February 24 to clinch their fifth successive Division title, this the Large after winning the last four NEC Small titles.

“Tell Danvers we wont make them wait that long,” a rather happy Beverly coach Scott Lewis said afterward, grateful his squad could make up for its frustrating 53-49 loss at Danvers a few weeks ago. “We’ll beat (second place) Lynn English (with 4 losses, while Beverly has five after a rocky start to the season) for them on the 23rd.”

The fact is the Falcons could have stolen this one just like Beverly could have stolen the meeting in Danvers.

“We played terrible,” Danvers coach John Walsh said as his dejected team walked through the Henry Cabot Lodge Field house on the way to its bus for as thankfully short ride back to DHS. It was pretty obvious how Walsh meant “terrible.”

First and foremost for giving up 68 points, though they gave up 63 in turning back host Lynn Classical the night before, 68-63. It wasn’t for a lack of effort. Playing their standard tight man defense with some double teaming thrown in, the same defense used by Beverly, the superbly conditioned Falcons still had to be sucking a little wind down the stretch.

Walsh went pretty much with his first five all night, required in part because super sub Tahg Coakley was sitting on the bench in street clothes unavailable for action after playing a fine game off the bench at Classical.

After the team’s topo four scorers scored either 16 points or 15 at Lynn, Rashad Francois (28) and Devonn Allen (24) carried the offense and it wasn’t enough. The usually reliable Tre Crittendon was held to nine points on 3-for-8 shooting, hitting three threes.

Mike Nestor a marvelous two-way standout at Lynn, did his usual fierce battling on defense and on the boards but was shut out on the scoreboard, shooting 0-for-6).

After Beverly recovered from Danvers’ dazzling start and a ctually took the lead, 18-16, after one quarter, the Falcons played catchup for much of the rest of the game.

They showed wonderful determination in cutting a 34-26 halftime deficit to within 34-31 early in the third quarter, then turned a 43-31 disadvantage into a 51-50 game after three quarters, sparked by Rashad’s 11 points on four highlight film spin drives to the basket and a three-pointer for the final points of the session.

“Rashad was just terrific,” Walsh said. “He carried us again (as he did with 30 against Lynn English last week). “I’m very proud of him.”

It was anyone’s game in the finale, with  ties at 51, 53 and 56 on matching treys from Francois and Traicoff. But then the Falcons missed six shots in a row, fell back 65-58 with 2:20 when Traicoff hit another three, and the visitors looked dead.

But Francois pulled off another penetration spin-drive layup (now down 5) and Allen converted a three-point play on a gorgeous baseline drive reverse layup  with 1:34 left (after missing two foul shots 22 seconds earlier). Traicoff missed a mid-range jumper with 33 seconds left and the Falcons had a golden opportunity to tie or go ahead on the next offensive sequence, but Crittendon missed an open trey and Allen missed a put-back when it appeared he was fouled.

Two Beverly foul shots made it 67-63 with 18 seconds remaining, Allen missed two deep threes at the other end and the win streak was over.

“We always give great effort with great energy,” Walsh said, “but tonight we definitely were not mentally tough enough and we lacked proper leadership on the floor. We didn’t box out their big men well enough.

The three-point shots were there and the deliberate Danvers offense led to countless successful penetrations through Beverly’s man defense, but too many of those were missed as well, despite the many that Rashad and Devonn converted.

“They’re an extremely difficult team to defend,” Lewis said of Danvers. “We were fortunate tonight by playing pretty much an honest man defense, though they almost beat us with a combination outside/inside offense.

“At the same time we were happy to score as many inside points as we did to go along with some fine outside shooting. A great game both teams deserved to win. And No. 1 (Francois) almost won it single handedly for them.”

So the Falcons have now lost four games by a total of 11 points. They next play in the Holliston tournament Sunday at 1 against Natick and hopefully Monday (if successful Sunday) in the title game (time to be determined) against the Holliston-Framingham winner.

This loss does little to tarnish what has been to this stage a sensational Danvers season. Win the next two at Holliston, beat Masconomet February 21 and get fired up for Peabody. Then comes tourney time. So much to look forward to with this crew of dedicated Falcon players.

 

 

 

 

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Danvers High boys cagers win 8th straight; stave off Classical, 68-63, behind balanced, clutch offense and timely defensive plays; clinch NEC Large title tie

After an eight-day forced layoff caused by two snowstorms, thus two postponements, the surging Danvers High boys basketball team started a six-game road trip to end the regular season with a tense, always-in-doubt 68-63 victory Wednesday night at Lynn Classical.

Keyed by balanced scoring from the “Big 4” — Tre Crittendon and Mike Nestor 16 each, Devonn Allen and Rashad Francois 15 apiece — the Falcons notched their eighth straight victory and improved to 13-3 overall, 12-2 in their debut season in the Northeastern Conference Large Division.

As a result, the Falcons, who won the NEC Small and the overall NEC titles the last four years before making the divisional move because of changed enrollment, have cinched a tie for the NEC Large crown and can win the title outright with a win Thursday night at 12-5 Beverly, owner of a six-game win skein. Second place Lynn English has four NEC losses and Classical now six. Beverly is now in third place in the NEC Large and can spoil the Falcons’ intentions after our favorites outlasted BHS by only 53-49 at Danvers earlier in the season. It was a narrow escape and the host Panthers will try and gain revenge Thursday night at 7.

This was a terrific team win at Classical, a squad the Falcons led throughout but could not put away until the final horn. Matters looked promising after a 21-12 opening quarter, not as much so with a 31-26 advantage at halftime, then a tad  better with a 50-42 cushion after three sessions. After a dazzling penetration drive layup by Allen made it 57-42 with 5:55 left, it appeared the Falcons were home free. But a frantic comeback powered by Erik Solis (15), Dyrrell Rucker (15) and an assorted cast of contributors, drew the Rams within 62-57 with 1:34 remaining and Crittendon having just fouled out for the first time this season.

But Allen snuck away from a Ram fullcourt press on a nice lead pass from Francois for a layup (64-57), Rashad drove to the basket for an uncontested layup against a tired Classical trapping defense (66-59, 47 seconds left), and Nestor, who made some huge rebounding/keep the ball alive at the offensive end plays, sank two clinching foul shots with 4.5 second left. Game time.

The only negative was the facial injury Francois suffered with 6.6 seconds left, apparently a bloodied lip and a woozie head, as Classical attacked the basket. He did not return for the final few seconds and was attended to by the Classical trainer and others before heading to the Danvers locker room. His status for Thursday night will not be known until sometime Thursday to determine the overnight swelling or otherwise.

It was far from an artistic triumph, but committing only 11 turnovers was a huge improvement from the 36 committed in the 10-point home win over Classical a few weeks ago. Moreover, each of the “Big 4” made clutch shots to keep the Rams at bay, as well as sixth man Tahg Coakley and seventh man Justin Roberto. Classical committed twice as many turnovers.

When one recalls that the Falcons’ prospects were unknown on the opening day of practice in late November after losing to graduation their “Big 3” of last year’s 27-0 Division 2 state champions, the Falcons have had an outstanding season to date, losing three games by a total of nine points. They should be proud, though they are hungry for much, much more.

They can begin satisfying that hunger Thursday at Beverly, followed by the Holliston tournament Sunday (1 p.m. versus Natick), Monday’s game to be determined, followed by a non-leaguer at Masconomet on Sunday the 21st at 2:30, then the regular season finale at Peabody on February 24.  That’s 21 games. The Fakcons would love to win at Beverly and make the Peabody game meaningless at least in terms of title implications.

The Falcons could win out for a 13-game win streak and an 18-3 mark or stumble somewhere, most likely, if at all, at Beverly.

No matter. The Falcons and coach John Walsh have put together a phenomenal regular season. Let’s hope it continues Thursday night at Beverly.

The Falcons were a disappointing 7 for 25 from three-point land after a 4-for-6 start. Coakley finished with four personals and played most of the fourth quarter without getting nabbed for the No. 5 disqualifier.

Walsh’s record at DHS is an out-of-this-world 118-22.

 

 

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Francois (30) Powers Danvers Boys Cagers To Resounding 91-65 Rout of Lynn English; Nearing Fifth Straight NEC Title After 29th Consecutive Home Victory

With his mom, Wilda, in the stands for the first time this season and sole possession of first place in the Northeastern Conference Large Division at stake, Rashad “Rudy” Francois staged a career performance Tuesday night, scoring 30 points, 20 in a  31-11 first quarter, as the Danvers High boys routed Lynn English, 91-65, to move two games ahead with three NEC games remaining.

“We knew how much was at stake tonight,” Francois said after the 12-3 Falcons posted their seventh straight victory and 29th straight home win overall, “especially after we lost by two at their place way back at the start of the season. It meant even more to me because my mom, who’s usually working when I play, was able to come to the game. I’m sure glad she got to this one.”

In a fitting way to celebrate Senior Night, the Falcons’ last home game (9-0 at home) before the state tournament, the Falcons hammered the visiting Bulldogs, playing without their star guard-forward, 6-2 Anthony Silfa. It was 19-3 after five minutes, the Bulldogs getting shots off (2) on only one possession as the Falcons’ nasty man defense smothered English (9-4 in the NEC) from the get-go and never gave them a chance.

Danvers made a stunning eight three-pointers in the opening quarter, four by Francois, three by Tre Crittendon and one by Mike Nestor. The masterful way the Falcons played at both ends of the court, this observer doubts that Silfa’s presence would have made a difference anyhow.

Stretching the lead to 26 at halftime by scoring a team record 54 points, Danvers coasted the second half as the Falcons’ “Big Three” enjoyed a wonderful night; Francois with his career-high 30, Devonn Allen with a slump-breaking 25 and Crittendon with a routine 17 on five threes. Francois finished with six threes, Allen with three and Nestor with two.

Danvers may be the only member of the Boston Globe Top 20 (No. 19) whose offense emphasizes the three-point field goal, but they get results, as their 16 “treys” against English attest.

As the Golden Age of Danvers High boys basketball continues for a sixth year under coach John Walsh, Danvers moves to 11-2 in NEC Large, with English now 9-4. With three NEC games left, the Falcons can clinch a division title tie with a win Friday night at Peabody, after which comes road games at Lynn Classical Monday and Beverly Thursday. The two-day Holliston tourney follows on February 14 and 15 and the regular season ends on the 21st at Masconomet.

“The kids really picked it up tonight,” said Walsh. “They played hard from one end to the other, shot real well and didn’t let up. I hope down the road I can say that we took our game to a new level with this one and kept it up the rest of the way, but we’ve got a lot of games left. I was just so happy for all the kids who had big games, from Rashad to Devonn to Tre and Mike (Nestor).

It was the Falcons’ first 90-point effort of the season, their first since a 94-49 win at Revere a year ago.

After losing their three big men (6-9, 6-4, 6-3) to graduation and the college ranks, the team with no big man this year is enjoying a spectacular year, having lost three games by a total of nine points, a one-pointer to Malden Catholic, a two-pointer to English and as six-pointer at Salem.

It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of group he has to coach, Walsh gets tremendous results, this time for a fifth straight year.

Walsh is now 117 and 22 in five-plus seasons at the helm. Time to start collecting money for a statue?????

 

 

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Danvers High Boys, Leading NEC Large, Finish Conference Campaign With Four Stern Tests, Starting Tuesday At Home Versus Lynn English Riding 26-Game Home Win Streak

The four-time defending Northeastern Conference Danvers High boys basketball team, boasting a 26-game home win skein, finds itself in first place in its first season in the NEC Large Division with four NEC contests remaining, starting at home Tuesday night (7 p.m.) against Lynn English.

This rematch holds a great deal of meaning for both squads. Danvers leads the division with a 10-2 record, with Lynn English (9-3) close behind. Lynn Classicval is third at 8-5The Falcons hold their fate in their own hands since they win the division if they win out, but that will be a major task.

After hosting Lynn English, a 54-52 victor in Lynn in their first meeting, Danvers’s’ second game of the season, the Falcons play three straight road games, all toughies, even though they beat all three opponents the first time around: Peabody Friday (77-36 at Danvers), Lynn Classical next Monday (68-58 at Danvers) and Beverly (53-49 at Danvers) Thursday February 11.

“It’s a great challenge for us but there’s no reason we can’t measure up to every one of those challenges, as long as we take one game at a time and keep playing as hard as we have,” coach John Walsh said. “It will also help us if we keep improving game to game.”

The Falcons, 11-3 overall, have played solid chest-to-chest defense all season and they’ll need to maintain the energy level they’ve shown all season to continue their successful defensive results.

Equally important, the Falcons will need to continue their impressive three-point shooting of the past two games. Coincidentally, sophomore guard Justin Roberto’s three-point game has played a major impact in the Falcons’s last three wins, which have boosted their current win streak to six games.

Three three-point shot has been a vital part of the Danvers offense in every game this year because of their guard-heavy rotation. With Roberto a clear threat to opposing defenses, the Falcons now have four dangerous three-point bombers with Devonn Allen, Rashad Francois and Tre Crittendon.

Simply put, the Falcons have little or no size except for6-2 Kiernan Moriarty, and with rivals zoning the Falcons most every night, it’s often win or lose based on their three-point accuracy. Their long-range shooting went cold in the fourth quarter at Lynn English, leading to a two-point defeat after leading by 11 entering the fourth quarter. It didn’t help that Allen fouled out with four minutes remaining. The Falcons had a last-possession chance to force overtime or win in regulation but its bid fizzled.

Speaking of Allen, the junior point guard did not look his sharpest in his return to action Friday night against Revere after missing two games with a shoulder bruise, but this observer anticipates a big game from Devonn against English.

Danvers’s incentive in this one is significant, besides needing the win to protect its first place position. The Falcons also bring a 26-game home win streak into the game. Their last home loss, including post-season matchups? January 28, 2014 —   71-66 — to Lynn English. The Bulldogs would like nothing better than to shatter the streak Tuesday and boost their chances for successfully defending their NEC Large title.

The Falcons’s overall home record the last four-plus seasons under Walsh?

Do you believe ———  50 and 1?

“We seem to always get the job done at home,” says Walsh. “We obviously like our home floor and the great support we get from our fans especially at home. But we’ve got to play good every night to win, in particular against a quality team like English. We’ve got to play at our best.”

No matter what happens Tuesday, the Falcons will have another battle on their hands Friday at Peabody. They toyed with the vastly improved (8-5) Tanners when they came to Danvers, but the Tanners have been playing well of late, most recently a 72-66 overtime win over English.

After Peabody, Danvers travels to Classical Monday, another team the Falcons pretty much had their way with at home before the Rams came on too late in the fourth quarter while losing by 10. Then the last NEC date is at Beverly, 9-4 and a real strong home team. The Panthers fell at Danvers by only 53-49 and had plenty of chances to steal that one.

But it all begins Tuesday for the Falcons, the NEC kingpins the last four years and full of intentions to continue that way, at least in the Large Division.

Also keep in mid that English and Classical do not face each other the rest of the way.

 

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Danvers Boys Cagers Welcome Back Allen, Rout Revere 65-31, Await Lynn English Home Showdown Tuesday

The streaking Danvers High boys basketball team welcomed junior standout Devonn Allen back into the lineup after a two-game layoff with an explosive three-point performance in the opening quarter en route to a 65-31 rout of Revere in the DHS field house Friday night.

The Falcons, 11-3 and now riding a six-game win streak, scored their first 15 points on three-pointers, keyed by Tre Crittendown’s trio of treys as part of a 5-7 long-range skein and the game was pretty much over then and there. The Falcons, now 8-0 at home awaiting a showdown here with Lynn English Tuesday, led by 15-2 at the time and widened their cushion the rest of the way.

The Falcons’ feared man-to-man, nose-to-nose defense never gave Revere a chance to get started. Revere had two points after the first 3:30, was shut out the first 5:33 of the second quarter and did not score until 4:40 had passed in the third.

In enjoying a second straight solid three-point night, a critical part of their offense, the Falcons hit eight of their first 14 launches from behind the arc and finished 15-for-31, led by Crittendon’s four, Rashad Francois’s three and two each from Mike Nestor, Justin Roberto and Sean Rooney.

Five Falcons had eight points or more, starting with the left-handed shooting Crittendon (14) and followed by Francois’s 11 and each each from Nestor, Roberto and Rooney.

Allen, after taking two games off to nurse a sore shoulder, was understandably rusty in his return, hitting one of three three-point attempts and finishing with five points. His floor game was so-so, much below his typically high-level play.

He’ll need to be at his best Tuesday when Lynn English comes to town. English edged Danvers by two points in their first meeting in Lynn, where the Falcons blew an 11-point fourth quarter lead and Allen fouled out halfway through the quarter.

It may be up to the Falcons’s always reliable man-to-man defense (30 Revere turnovers to Danvers’13) and rejuvenated three-point consistency to turn back English and put them in position to move into first place in the Northeastern Conference Large division with another win at Lynn Classical on Monday February 8. The Falcons need to win out in the NEC, including wins at Peabody and Beverly to have a shot at a fifth consecutive NEC title.  Salem is destined to win the overall NEC title which Danvers has won an unprecedented four straight years.

Classical has one loss in the NEC, English and Danvers two each with four NEC games remaining.

DHS junior Nina Perel did another superb job singing the national anthem before the tap.

Back-up big man Isaiah Clark had a rough go of it, getting whistled for four fouls and not scoring during his second half stint. I have to believe coach John Walsh is bringing the all-star football lineman along slowly, hoping he’ll be polished enough to make a positive contribution come the two final regular season games in the Holliston Invitational before the defending Division 2 state champs begin their title defense.

 

 

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Roberto’s Bombs (6-for-7 in 3s) Powers Danvers High Boys Cagers To 10th Win, 73-42, Over Winthrop

Sophomore Justin Roberto, a key factor off the bench with five treys in Friday’s 51-48 comeback victory at Marblehead, was in an even better groove Tuesday night in Danvers’ 73-42 rout of Swampscott in the DHS field house.

Roberto, after missing his first three-point shot, made his next six, finished 6-for-7, and sparked the Falcons to their fifth straight victory and their 10th in 13 outings overall.

With junior ace Devonn Allen sitting out his second straight game with a bruised shoulder, sixth man Tahg Coakley came up big in Allen’s spot, adding 15 points, while Tre Crittendon added 14 (3-4 in threes) and Rashad Francois had 12.

A team that had been shooting abysmally from the arc was vastly improved in this one, hitting 11-for 19, 8-for-10 in the first half, during which the Falcons made an astonishing seven straight threes. It was 46-19 at the half after it had been 9-8 with 1:26 left in the opening quarter.

The big story emerging from these last two wins has undoubtedly been the 5-11 Roberto, who has been labeled a future long range shooter deluxe for the varsity for some time.

Desperately needing him to deliver at Marblehead, Roberto delivered, making 5 of 11 threes. Then he topped that showing with a stunning 6-for-7 against Swampscott, thrusting him into the sixth man role until Allen returns, most likely next Tuesday at home against Lynn English. When Allen gets back in action, Roberto will be the second man off the bench and locked into the regular rotation.

“He’s got the touch going right now,” says Coach John Walsh. “It’s great to see. Justin’s had the potential to make an impact and he’s doing that right now. I’m very happy for him. He’s got to keep looking for his shot, though, whenever the opportunity presents itself.”

Roberto’s thrusting himself into the Falcons’s offensive equation is important, since the three-point shot is an integral part of their success.

He joins Francois, Crittendon and Allen as three-point threats every time they bring the ball down the floor.

With five Northeastern Conference games left in the regular season, the Falcons project to be anywhere from 15-3 to 13-5 after this stretch, followed by a two-game tourney at Holliston before beginning defense of their Division 2 state championship.

The two tough games left are versus English and at Lynn Classical February 8. The return match at Beverly could be a challenge on the 11th, but the Falcons should be able to triumph.

One other positive factor surfaced for the Falcons Tuesday night with the season debut of big man Isaiah Clark, the all-star lineman on the football team. He could prove to be a major plus in the middle in future weeks.

Fact is, with a team comprised of five scoring guards, small forward extraordinaire Mike Nestor and inside man Kieran Moriarty, this team has been a marvel. Small as they may be, they are capable of beating anybody because of their quickness, defensive proficiency and offensive versatility.

Walsh’s six-year record at Danvers is now 115-22, the best such cumulative record by a North Shore coach, boys or girls, in histiory.

 

 

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Patriots Had No Right Winning AFC Title Game with Broncos, Yet Almost Did

Despite the nausea, I am compelled to make a few observations about the Patriots’s disastrous performance Sunday in Denver, a 20-18 defeat.

  • As I feared in sending out a well-circulated e-mail an hour before kickoff, the stage was set for another terrible effort by the Pats’s offense after everyone, including the man in the moon, predicted a Patriots’ victory.
  • The offense, just as in its two most recent Super Bowl losses, stunk the joint out.
  • One legitimate touchdown drive the whole bleeping game.
  • Tom Brady was a shell of his usual Hall of Fame-playing self.
  • The offensive line needs to be blown up and rebuilt from scratch. Vollmer was the biggest disappointment.
  • Brady had little breathing room from start to finish.
  • At the same time, even though forced to throw away several passes because his receivers didn’t have time to receive his throws, he was off the mark more than on.
  • Ron Gronkowski was the only Pat to legitimately earn his paycheck. He is one amazing gamer.
  • Coach Bill Belichick will come under fire for passing up two field goals in the final 10 minutes, but he had confidence in his quarterback and took his chances, despite the atrocious play of his offensive line.
  • Guess who threw two TD passes and who threw only one??
  • The defense was superb, giving up only one TD on a long drive. The other Denver TD came after an idiotic Brady pass into heavy traffic that I could have intercepted.
  • Outcome would have been different — I think — if played at The Razor. Imagine not being able to win either of their two regular season games to clinch home field. Next year Bill might look at the same situation differently. I thought pros played for the here and now, not what might be happening a month later.
  • All-Pro Stephen Gostkowski?? Missing his first extra point this season cost the Pats a second straight 20-20 regulation deadlock in Denver and another chance to win in OT.
  • This one will take a long long time to recover from.
  • How could they play so poorly and still have a chance to win the game if they convert their two-point PAT bid with 12 second left? By being the Patriots.

 

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Danvers’ Boys Cagers, Sans Allen, Overtake Marblehead, 51-48, Behind Francois (16) and Roberto (15)

Now we’re finding out just how good this Danvers High boys basketball team can be.

Playing for the first time without junior guard-forward Devonn Allen (bruised shoulder), arguably their best all-around player, the Falcons turned to their other top all-around player, senior forward Rashad “Rudy” Francois (16 points, 11 in the second half) to key them at both ends of the floor, and sophomore bomber Justin Roberto (15 points on five threes) broke through offensively. Combined with a terrific inside game against much bigger opponents from Mike Nestor (10) and Tahg Coakley, the Falcons rallied past Marblehead, 51-48, Friday night on Brad Sheridan Court in the MHS field house.

“These kids have been through these kinds of games before,” coach John Walsh (114-22 at Danvers) said after the Falcons rallied from an early 10-3 deficit to lead 26-25 at halftime, then charged again after trailing 39-31, keyed by  clutch three-pointers midway through the final quarter from Francois, Nestor and Roberto, the latter’s making it 50-43 with 2:35 remaining.

“Danvers kids are tough kids. They can handle adversity. And the way they responded tonight, well, I’m very proud of them.”

Missing their first nine shots from the floor and hitting only two of 16 three-point shots the first half, the Falcons learned quickly what is was like to play without the injured Allen, whom many considered the MVP of their Division 2 state championship run last winter.

Combined with an effective box-and-1 defense on Tre Crittendon and a big edge in offensive rebounding, Marblehead felt it should have been in better shape instead of down one at intermissions.

But once again the Danvers nose-to-nose defense and ball-hawking strategy paid off. The Magicians committed nine turnovers by halftime to Danvers’s five, and at the final horn the difference was 19-6 in turnovers, a major credit to the Danvers “Dee.”

The Falcons also overcame another dismal three-point shooting performance team-wise, finishing this night making only 8 of 36. But the ones they made came at critical junctures, helping them get back in the game the first half and helping them pull ahead down the stretch.

For the super value that Nestor and Coakley delivered, what with Crittendon held to four points, the suddenly sensational Roberto and the eclectic Francois were the difference makers in the Falcons’ fourth straight victory.

Walsh has been saying all season that Roberto is going to break out with a big shooting night and tonight the backup guard delivered after missing his first three long rangers. He then proceeded to make three straight, all swishes from the left baseline, and Walsh had long last found himself a seventh man.

“Everyone on the team knows Justin can shoot it,” Walsh said. “Tonight he finally broke through. We’re happy for him and hope he can take it from here. We can always use another good shooter.”

Roberto now gives the Falcons, boasting a rotation of five guards, forward Nestor (and inside man Kieran Moriarty), six potential game-changers from beyond the arc.

Francois, meanwhile, endured a shaky first half (5 points) with a masterful all-around second half featuring timely offensive plays and several big rebounds and/or steals, the last theft the biggest one in the closing 30 seconds when Marblehead came down the floor trailing 50-47. Rudy’s steal led to a clinching Nestor foul shot.

The Falcons also need work at the foul line (5-for-12), as well as at making shots early in the two halves. They missed 6-of-7 field goals to open the second half.

All in all, though, a magnificent win — on the road — without the invaluable Allen. And after shaky starts to both halves. This group grew a foot taller collectively tonight and now look ahead to what should be easy wins next week, with or without Allen, at home against Swampscott and Revere, before hosting its third straight game the following Tuesday against Northeastern Conference Large leader Lynn English with first place in the Large on the line. The Falcons are still smarting from a two-point loss at English, during which they blew a 48-37 lead entering the final quarter.

Lots to look forward to in what has evolved into a fruitful 2015-16 season.

 

 

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After 11 Games, Danvers High Boys Cagers On Track For Superb Season

After Tuesday night’s 48-23 victory over Gloucester, the four-time defending Northeastern Conference champion Danvers High boys hoopsters have little to complain about. With an 8-3 record that very easily could be 10-1, even 11-0, the Falcons have much to be thankful for, but also much to shoot for, as they continue the second half of their regular season Friday at 4-8 Marblehead.

The two overriding issues for coach John Walsh, who has guided the Falcons to an extraordinary three state titles the last four years, center around the team’s disappointing three-point shooting, a staple of their championship runs, and finding help off the bench beyond sixth man Tahg Coakley.

Walsh, in his sixth season at the helm (an incredible, but true, 113-22), has three reliable three-point bombers in Tre Crittendon, Devonn Allen and Rashad Francois, but they have been frustratingly inconsistent, i.e. streaky like you wouldn’t believe. When on a roll, their long-range accuracy can carry the Falcons to big leads or overcome major deficits. But when they get cold, like at the end of the three narrow losses (by 2 at Lynn English, by 1 versus Malden Catholic, and by 6 at Salem last week), kaboom, they can’t make up for this significant shortcoming.

Another example: They were 6-for-11 from three-point land at one stage of the first half at Saugus last week, then shot an abysmal 7-for-43 at home against Gloucester last night.

Coakley and Mike Nestor can knock down threes, too, such as Coakley’s huge pair at Salem and Nestor’s clutch baseline “trey” in crunch time against Malden Catholic. But overall, so far in the three tight games, Danvers’s three-point marksmanship has not delivered.

Trailing Lynn Classical and Lynn English by only one game in the loss column in the NEC Large division, the Falcons can still win a fifth straight NEC divisional title. They still play at Classical and host English. A fifth straight NEC overall title (for best NEC record in both divisions), may be difficult since Salem reached the midway mark a perfect 10-0.

As for the Falcons’ other prime issue – getting more out of the bench players – Justin Roberto showed some progress in the Winthrop game, hitting three of four three-pointers in mop-up time. But other than that episode, he and Jordan DeDonato, the other likely relief off the bench, have not quite shown the efficiency Walsh needs to make them regular members of the playing rotation.

Walsh would love to give more of his regulars some rest time since they play such an intense form of man-to-man defense. But he’s not ready to make that commitment to playing time for his Nos. 7 and 8 men. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

The most beautiful aspect of this John Walsh-coached team, like all of his DHS teams: the boundless energy with which every player competes, be it a nailbiter or a blowout.

Now, a breakdown of how the “Super Six” and the Coach have fared after 11 games.

Devon Allen – Clearly the best all-around player on the team and unquestionably one of the top players in the NEC…he even jumps center on the opening taps and has won most of them…Streaky but almost always accurate (on the rim) three-point shooter, phenomenal penetrator, steady passer, superb defender and rebounder…capable of scoring 40 points in any kind of game, but not necessary based on the offensive support he has been getting from his teammates, especially Francois and Crittendon…He may on occasion try and do too much on his own offensively, but it appears Walsh designs those 1-on-1s much of the time and often they work out nicely.

Rashad “Rudy” Francois – The most athletic player on the team, capable of making a spectacular play anywhere on the court, offensively or defensively, on the floor or in the air…just hoping he is more consistent with his offensive play the second half of the season….capable of taking over a game single handedly…capable of making acrobatic plays when you least expect it… Won’t soon forget the off-balance, flip shot, three-point-play he made in heavy traffic in the lane with 12 seconds left giving the Falcons a one point lead against Malden Catholic.

Kenneth “Tre” Crittendon – Arguably the most improved player and currently, inarguably, the team’s most reliable long-range shooter filled with confidence from practically any distance beyond the arc…such a fitting description for a young man nicknamed “Tre.”…Deftly takes over the point for Allen when Walsh moves Allen to wing on offense…Has a great eye for finding the open teammate…Joins Allen and Francois in giving the Falcons a feared three-prong front line when zone or halfcourt trap pressing…the make a ton of steals or force a similar number of turnovers.

Mike Nestor Another Falcon who has made major strides from a year ago when he was primarily a defensive stopper and rebounder…This year he is also a viable offensive option for powering his way to the basket or canning the jump shot, medium range or beyond the arc, as evidence by his 17-point showing at Lynn English that sparked a third-quarter surge and gave DHS an 11-point lead after three quarters…Continues as a terrific defensive player and board man.

Kieran Moriarty – Jumping into the middle of the fray as a starter this year, after seeing sporadic service a year ago, Kieran has done a commendable job as an inside defender and rebounder and has shown a soft touch with his mid-range jump shot, especially from the baseline. He is often the player replaced by Coakley when Walsh wants additional quickness in the lineup or when the Falcons are going to apply some form of defensive pressure from halfcourt or beyond.

Tahg Coakley – A multi-faceted sixth man who can play big or small, Tahg often comes in initially for Moriarty, Nestor or Francois. His quickj start and long strides serve him well at both ends of the floor. He can mix it up with the big men and hold his own and boasts the necessary quickness to pester effectively the opposition in “man” or “zone” situations.

Coach John Walsh – There is very little to quibble about regards Walsh’s coaching. Considering he’s dealing with a six-man rotation for the most part, his flexibility is limited but he’s found ways to give his offense and defense different looks. He is using his players’ quickness and high energy levels to full advantage. His conditioning program to get his players in peak shape and keep them there, sans injuries, has worked miracles. Check out how few injuries or missed games his regulars have experienced since he came on board. Remember that Vinny Clifford’s knee injury that kept him out his entire junior season occurred in the summer. My only wish: that John would yank his frontliners earlier in blowouts. He tends to keep his starters in the game far longer than necessary. Bottom line: As I have written before, Walsh is our Bill Belichick. The Patriots were lucky to acquire Bill’s services, just as DHS was lucky to acquire Walsh’s services.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Danvers High Boys Toy With Gloucester, 48-23; Improve to 8-3

Fresh off their melee-marred 47-34 victory at Saugus, the Danvers High boys took a while to show interest in their Gloucester High guests Tuesday night in the DHS Field House. But once they snapped to, they methodically disposed of the Fishermen, 47-23, to improve to 8-3 on the season.

The Falcons were clearly out of synch at the start, missing their first 12 shots, including their first nine three-point attempts. But as is often the case, their smothering man-to-man defend made up for their offensive indiscretions, forcing Gloucester to comitt five turnovers in their first five possessions.

Devonn Allen finally broke the scoring ice, swishing a three-pointer from the left side for the game’s first points nearly four minutes in. Gloucester actually gave the first quarter a hint of suspense when it closed within 5-4 and had the ball, but after that it was all Danvers, despite the fact the Falcons finished for the game an astonishing 7-for-44 from three-point land.

Thankfully, Tre Crittendon, after missing his first six threes in the first quarter, canned his seventh attempt in the final minute, giving DHS an 11-4 lead and the home team coasted from there.

Crittendon led the Falcons with 15 points on five threes, Rashad Francois added 11 (after his smashing 24-point performance at Saugus) and Allen finished with 10.

It was 24-6 at halftime, 36-12 after three. “Nuff said there. Odd about the Falcons three-point misfires, because they shot the ball quite well from beyond the arc at Saugus (7-14 at one stage). They’ll need to shoot a lot better to defeat host Marblehead Friday night (7 p.m. tip)

The Falcons’s defense continued to shine, leading to 21 Gloucester turnovers to Danvers’s seven.

The win improved Coach John Walsh’s out-of-this-world record at Danvers over 5 1/2 years to 113-21. Pinch me. And the Falcons potentially could finish around 15-5 by the end of the regular season, But first they must beat Marblehead.

Good to see the bandage off Allen’s left thumb. He’d been protecting the appendage for the last few games.

 

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