Danvers Cagers Must Hurdle Impressive Wayland for Third Consecutive Year

The Danvers High Basketball Falcons’ inexorable quest for a second consecutive Division 3 state championship is passing through the Wayland Warriors once again. The No. 2 seeded Falcons (21-2) take on Wayland (19-4) Saturday at 3:45 in the Division 3 North Section final at Lowell’s Tsongas Arena, the winner advancing to the EMass D-3 final Tuesday at the TD Garden, the start time to be announced.

Wayland advanced after dispatching previously perfect North Reading Wednesday night in Burlington, 64-48, behind Jaleel Bell’s 34 points and 12 rebounds and Mark Bonner’s 17 points and 11 boards. That is a dynamic 1-2 punch. The Falcons took care of Whittier’s 1-2 punch, 69-51, Tuesday at Triton, but this 1-2 tandem is several notches better.

Wayland hopes this is payback time after it was eliminated from the North Section tourney each of the last two years by Danvers. Last year’s loss has surely been gnawing at the Warriors ever since the final horn of the Falcons’ 70-67 overtime victory. Wayland led by 10 points with a little over a minute left in regulation before the Falcons stormed back and forced the extra session thanks to Joe Scarfo’s three-point connection with seconds remaining.

And here they are back challening the Falcons again, tho this time they’re dealing with the defending state champs.

Danvers played a dazzling game in beating Whittier  with four players in double figures in clearly the best all-around team effort of the year. But can they take care of Wayland for a third straight time?

“We hope to,” says Danvers coach John Walsh, “but after watching Wayland beat North Reading, we have got our hands full. They’re a fantastic team with a fantastic star in Jaleel Bell. We’ll have to limit his touches, deny him the ball and keep him and his teammates off the offensive glass. If we do these two things, and we take care of the rest of our game at both ends, we’ll have a chance.”

Wayland is probably thinking they need to have several factors fall in their favor to have their best chance of advancing. They indeed will have to play exceptionally to throw Danvers off its spectacular two-way game.

“Our kids played great the other night, but they’ll have to play even better against this opponent,” Walsh said after attending a team dinner at the home of sophomore sensation Vinny Clifford. “Keep in mind they beat a team twice, Waltham, that also beat St. John’s Prep.”

The Falcons are kings of the hill at this juncture until they are knocked off, but they will need a superlative effort to defeat a Wayland team that has been anxious for revenge.




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