After 2-Week Layoff, Danvers High Boys Cagers Learn a Lesson, Slam Saugus

We’ll find out what a two-week layoff means to the New England Patriots Saturday against the Ravens, but last night we saw how a 14-day break from competition affects the now-No. 3-rated (see Boston Globe) Danvers High Falcons boys basketball team at Saugus.

Strong finishing first quarter (16-3 run) for a 25-11 lead; frightful second quarter creating a 41-41 halftime deadlock; a what-you’d-expect third quarter making for a 64-50 advantage; and a business-like fourth quarter resulting in an 88-66 victory over a feisty Saugus High squad.

Overall an acceptable performance for the 5-0 Falcons, who got another superb inside offensive showing from power forward Devan Harris, who poured in a career-high 35 points, 19 by half time, and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Vinny Clifford finished with 19 points but missed the fourth quarter after tweaking his right knee, the one that was operated on in September 2013. He was walking around and sitting on the bench during the fourth quarter in seemingly comfortable fashion, though he was careful about it.

One other major positive was the fourth quarter play off the bench of junior point guard Tre Crittendon. He split the Saugus defense for a nifty penetration drive and was his all-around pesky self on defense. Expect to see him in the rotation tomorrow night with steady Mike Nestor.

There were concerns besides Clifford’s knee, primarily the uncharacteristic way in which the Falcons struggled against the zone press designed by highly regarded Saugus coach Paul Moran, the former Swampscott High scoring machine, and his determined Sachems. Danvers committed seven second quarter turnovers while being outscored 30-16. The 30 points must be a record high number of points allowed by the Falcons in a single quarter dating back to December 2011.

Starting point guard Devonn Allen had problems getting the ball up court against the Saugus pressure. Word surely has gotten out to every Northeastern Conference rival by today of the aforementioned difficulty. Expect every opponent from this point forward to try and rattle the Falcons with halfcourt, three-quarter or full court pressure, starting with tomorrow night’s home game with Marblehead. Salem and Lynn English, the two top challengers to the Falcons’ quest for a fourth straight NEC title, must be licking their chops. It will be up to coach John Walsh and staff to sharpen the Falcons’ offense-against-pressure by tomorrow night and especially by the time they face Salem and English.

The other strongest impression made last night was the inestimable value of 6-9 Peter Merry to the Falcons’ defensive schemes and in helping break opposing teams’ presses. Whether Peter scores two points or 22, his greatest impact to this team comes on defense, where his ability to intimidate and block shots is worth goodness knows how many points over the span of 32 minutes. Last night his line read 12 points, nine rebounds and nine blocks. The points certainly matter, but his rebounds, blocks and “intimidations” are priceless.



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