At Holiday Break, Danvers High boys cagers (4-0) Are On Schedule

After winning three games in four nights, including an impressive 59-53 victory over Somerville at Salem State and boosting their record to 4-0, the Danvers High boys’ basketball team seems to be on schedule for what could be a record-breaking campaign, though coach John Walsh could not have been terribly pleased with the 19 turnovers the Falcons committed in Monday night’s 74-49 trouncing of host Gloucester. That just might mean nineteen extra sets of backward sprints between now and their next game, Friday January 2 at non-league foe Rockland (7 p.m.).

Fact is the Division 2 state tournament favorites, who earned a No. 5 ranking in last Sunday’s Boston Globe pre-season hoop rankings, have shown many strengths and a few weaknesses through four games, reminding one and all among the Falcon faithful that they are young men, teenagers, actually, facing a pressure cooker every time they take the floor, and they’ve handled said pressure nicely after four outings.

Sporting new black warmups this season, the Falcons, supported vociferously by the “Falcon Fanatic” cheering section and a select group of musicians from the DHS band, toyed with Swampscott in their home opener, blasting the visitors, 73-45. A few observations:

  • Devan Harris showed what a monster force he can be offensively from inside and out, scoring 27 points and leaving the game early in the fourth quarter with more points than the entire SHS squad (26) at the time.
  • Center Peter Merry showed how much impact he can have on the game even when he’s not scoring, thanks to his “Big Bird”-like wing span and defensive intimidation using his 6-9 3/4 height to maximum advantage.
  • We learned Vinny Clifford’s right knee was all the way back after he missed all of last season due to surgery when he canned a 16-foot right side pull-up jumper midway through the second quarter, a move which put maximum stress on his two knees and ankles. It’s a different stress than is applied when he takes his patented three-point shot. Great news for us all.
  • Walsh intends to use more of a bench this year than last, I would surmise, thanks to what Tagh Coakley, Tre Crittendon, Mike Nestor, Andrew Dunn and Tom Gillespie showed in this outing and at Gloucester.

Saturday night’s meeting with Somerville, the fourth and final game of the Northeastern Conference-Greater Boston League four-game showdown at Salem State’s O’Keefe Center, was a terrific test for the Falcons. They faced a young, athletic Somerville group that gave the Falcons all they could handle, reminding Walsh’s warriors in the process that they have a long way to go to reach peak efficiency in all phases of the game.

This game was in at least one way sophomore point guard Devonn Allen’s “coming out” party as an indispensable contributor at both ends of the floor. His defensive talents are well known, but on this occasion he scored 10 of the Falcons’ 13 fourth quarter points, hitting mid-range jumpers, penetrating drives and clutch free throws. He’ll get his three-point shooting game in gear soon enough.

Rashad Francois’s all-around floor game played a major role as well, especially in the second half, when those aspects of his game were more important than his scoring.

Harris had his second straight 20-point game. Every night we marvel at his ability to make hay inside or out offensively, while combining with Merry and Clifford to give the Falcons a powerful inside-or-outside offensive game.

And, most important, the Falcons as a team were able to handle some adversity and challenge from their opponent and respond nicely when the game was on the line.

Monday night’s victory at Gloucester was a reminder what a devastating offensive force the Falcons can be collectively, though every rival coach recognizes that Danvers’ defensive schemes, be they man-to-man or pressing are the most ferocious they’ll probably face all season.

The Falcons’ offense was in high gear from the start, hitting six of its first eight shots and jumping out to a 21-5 lead after 5:15, keyed by 3-for-4 three-point marksmanship, two from Clifford and one from Francois. Clifford sparkled offensively with a career-high 29 points, and when he was replaced at the end of the third quarter he had more points than the entire Fisherman unit (25).

The bench again showed some positive sings from several players, including sophomore Jordan DeDonato, who hit two donwntowners, one a three.

The one big sore spot those aforementioned 19 turnovers. I predict they’ll cut that number in half for the Rockland road game on January 2.

All in all, much to be thankful for about this remarkable group of athletes and their talented and dedicated coaches as 2014 ends and 2015 approaches.





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