Francois Sparks Danvers High Cagers to Eighth Win; Salem Provides Big Test Friday

After another sluggish start, the unbeaten Danvers High boys basketball Falcons got a major spark off the bench from Rashad Francois, the reliable off guard firing in five three-pointers en route to a career-high 21 points, and, boosted as well by Peter Merry’s 12 blocked shots, pulled away from host Beverly in the second half for a 66-42 triumph Tuesday night in the Henry Cabot Lodge Fieldhouse.

Francois was marvelous from the deep, canning three successive treys in the second quarter, then two more in a 25-second span in the decisive third quarter when the Falcons (8-0) outscored 1-7 Beverly by a 20-2 margin and kept the Panthers scoreless for the first six minutes. By that time the game was over.

Merry, though scoring only two points, was his usual monster presence inside defensively with his 12 blocks, five coming in the second quarter. Devan Harris was more his normal imposing self inside offensively, scoring 12 points, while Vinny Clifford played the most minutes he has all season while adding 10, the same number provided by ever-improving sophomore point guard Devonn Allen.

Coach John Walsh will be the first to admit there are some missing ingredients required before he can say the Falcons are operating full throttle on all cylinders. He hopes to say as much after they host 8-2 Salem Friday night at 7 in a Northeastern Conference matchup of powerhouse programs. The two most critical elements are taking care of the basketball while under defensive pressure and playing a higher degree of the in-your-shirt defends Danvers has been known for since Walsh’s divinely arrival on the Danvers basketball scene ¬†five seasons ago.

They will need a solid effort for 32 minutes against a Salem squad that can run, press and score points in bunches. That solid effort would include a minimum of turnovers, consistent play from the starting five and top subs Tre Crittendon and Mike Nestor and effective rebounding and defending.

Get there early Friday. A full house is expected.

Merry’s 36-point effort against Lynn Classical last Friday was exceptional, foremost because Peter hit his first 10 shots. Don’t think that’s ever been done by a Danvers player before. If I’m wrong, let me know.

I do know that Ed Gieras holds the single game scoring record with 45, attained during his 1975 senior season in which he led the Falcons to the NEC title and he was named the NEC MVP. Dana Skinner, the best player in DHS history, had 38 and the late Scott Powers notched 41. ¬†George Merry, Peter’s older brother now at WPI, scored 40 at Revere, Coach Walsh reported and Sean Mahegan scored 38 against Salem in Walsh’s first year as coach, 2010-2011.

Lastly, the Falcons are No. 2 in this week’s Boston Globe rankings, with only 10-0 Newton North ahead of them. The Falcons were ranked No. 1 two season ago when they posted an 18-0 regular season mark before losing two mini-tourney games while point guard Eric Martin sat out with an injury. He came back after those two games and led the Falcons to their first of successive Division 3 state championships.




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