Walsh, Danvers Falcons A Revelation, Even in Defeat, at 10-2

The more I have watched John Walsh’s fourth Danvers High boys’ basketball team, the more I have been amazed at the quality of Walsh’s coaching and the talent displayed by his six-man rotation, all new players this season except for 2012-2013 super sub Kieran Beck. Especially in their two defeats — the three-point setback at Salem and last night’s 71-66 home court defeat to Division 1 standout Lynn English.

Despite their carelessness in the way they handled the ball (read: 22 turnovers) and their blowing golden scoring opportunities last night, the Falcons (10-2) continue to show a heart, a character the way they play the game, that we have never ever seen from the DHS boys’ hoop team. Not even from the last two teams that captured state championships.

Granted, they squandered an 11-point halftime lead and struggled against the Bulldogs’ pinching trap defense after intermission, but they once again displayed a dogged determination and stamina at which you can only marvel.

Also keep in mind that against English, a team expected to contend for the Eastern Mass. Division 1 title, Division 2 Danvers was playing without its lone returning starter from a year ago, Vinnie Clifford, sidelined for the entire season because of a debilitating summer knee injury, and starting center Peter Merry, the 6-7 junior who was missing his third straight game because of a hip injury. Merry’s presence might have been a significant equalizer opposite English’s 6-6 pivot Johnny Hilaire (15).

As it was, the Falcons had every chance to win the game once point guard extraordinaire Mark McCarthy (11 points) drove the lane to even the score at 62 with 3:10 remaining, and Devon Harris (22) did the same, starting from the top of the key, and made it 64-64 with 1:20 remaining.

But it was all English from there. Just too much firepower and player depth, while Walsh stuck pretty much with five players the entire game. No matter. A marvelous effort from a team that little was expected from at the start of the season, and now one that figures to be a Division 2 tourney contender, assuming Merry returns healthy before too long, no one else comes down with an injury, and Walsh figures a way to get a couple more players into the rotation, probably Mike Nestor and Andrew Dunn. Frosh Devon Allen has done a yeoman’s job filling in for Merry among the first five. Now, if he can only regain his shooting touch, his role will only become more important.

After winning back-to-back Division 3 state titles, Walsh, a marvel in his own right in his first head coaching job, just might have the Falcons in a position come post-season time to make a run at a Division 2 championship. Who would have believed?

This lovable Falcons’ squad now projects to go somewhere between 15-5 and 17-3 in the regular season. Astounding. Can’t wait for the next one, a non-league home game Sunday afternoon with Billerica starting at 2 p.m.












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