Danvers Hoop Falcons Roll in State Title Defense Opener; Martin Has Impressive Return

Think the Danvers High Falcon Hoopsters are primed to repeat as Division 3 state champions? Consider these facts from their opening round 78-31 annihilation of Greater Lawrence last night in the DHS fieldhouse:

  • Danvers led 18-0 after one quarter, forcing 13 Greater Lawrence turnovers in the process. Yes, 18 to zippo.
  • Danvers led, 36-15, at halftime, Greater Lawrence having committed 18 turnovers.
  • Greater Lawrence (GL) did not hit the rim with a shot until 5:24 had elapsed.
  • GL did not score score a field goal until 2:20 into the second quarter.

And, better than all of those statistics, starting point guard Eric Martin, the team’s leader and heart and soul, played the entire first quarter without displaying any after-effects of a hip flexor/strained groin that he had suffered two games ago against Brighton that made him miss the next game against Newton North. Thanks to a nine-day recovery period, Martin looked like his old self last night, even if he did miss all six shots he took. The rest of his game, especially his masterful defense, looked as sharp as ever.

“The leg feels good,” Martin said after the Falcons extended their best-ever season record to 19-2. “It seems to be getting better every day. The rest was helpful. I was about 90 percent tonight; felt a little rust.”

There will be little time for rest, however. The Falcons are right back at it in the North Section quarterfinal round Saturday in the fieldhouse at 4 p.m. against another team from the Commonwealth Athletic Conference, No. 7 seed Minuteman Regional (13-8), which advanced Tuesday with a 71-56 win over South Boston.

Danvers head coach John Walsh, ever the perfectionist, was restrained in his praise of the Falcons, but admitted he was encouraged by the way they bouncezd back after suffering their first two losses of the season. “We defended well,” he said, obviously referring to GL’s 24 turnovers. “We shot the ball decently, especially Nick McKenna (he made 4 shots in a row in the first half, game-high 24 points total). But we have a lot of work to do to reach the level of play I believe we’re capable of.”

His approach to starting Martin, but limiting his playing time to fourteen minutes? “He was ready to play. I just wasn’t sure how far he’d go,” Walsh said. “He showed what makes him effective (even without scoring) while he was out there.”

Martin’s incessant pressure on the ball at midcourt led to a bunch of turnovers, which in turn led to fastbreak points galore.

Other observations:

  • Great to see sophomore sharpshooter Vinny Clifford (18 points) find his range after a couple shaky outings against Brighton and Newton North. Clifford scored 18 points and hit five threes.
  • McKenna and pivot man Dan Connors (10)are clearly the Falcons’ go-to players offensively, but Martin showed he hasn’t lost any quickness with his penetration moves. Nick Bates (12) can score inside or out and Clifford will deliver the dagger-like threes to drive rival coaches batty.
  • Why are the DHS cheerleaders, 25 strong, so inactive during the games?
  • Twin brothers Jason and Adam Tibbetts are thriving as “Freddie Falcons.”
  • Great to see DHS hoop great Ed Gieras in the stands with Mike Hennessey.
  • Nice job by Jeff Avigian on the introductions, which includes the Danvers starters’ elementary schools.
  • The Falcons would not have won the state title a year ago without 6-foot, 8-inch all-state center George Merry, now playing for WPI. But with Merry gone, Walsh has been able to extend his clamping, pressing defenses to all corners of the court with his seven-player rotation.
  • George’s kid brother Peter, a developing sophomore big man, impressed in fourth quarter action with a couple blocks and six points on 3-for-3 shooting.


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