Top-seeded Danvers High Boys Cagers Get Off To Strong Tourney Start, Clipping Wakefield, 69-52; Win No. 100 for Coach John Walsh

Considering they were coming off an eight-day layoff, the top-ranked and top-seeded Danvers High Falcon boys opened their Division 2 state title quest tonight in impressive fashion, disposing of Middlesex League entry Wakefield, 69-52, before a near-capacity crowd in the DHS field house.

In the process, the victory gave Danvers coach John Walsh his 100th as coach, this his first head coaching opportunity. His DHS teams are 100-19, most likely the fastest any North Shore varsity boys hoop coach has gotten to 100 wins.

The Danvers High Boys Basketball Boosters and thez Danvers cheering section, the Falcon Fanatics, celebrated at the final horn by storming the courts and saluting Walsh with special Danvers blue tee shirts with the numbers 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 on there backs, marking Walsh’s five teams, all of whom have reached the state tournament, and two of which have won state Division 3 titles (2012, 2013). They’re hoping Walsh will reach the number 105 for victories before the end of the tournament, which will signify state title No. 3, this time in Division 2.

Next up for the Falcons: 14-7 Boston Latin Academy back in the DHS field house Monday night at 7, the same night and time as the other three Division 2 North quarterfinal encounters. If Danvers takes care of Latin, it will then face in the semis, either Wednesday or Thursday on a neutral court, the winner of the Salem-Brighton game. Latin advanced with a 50-45 win over a weak Masconomet team.

As for beating Wakefield (10-10), the Falcons looked share after a poor first 108 seconds, during which  the Warriors took a 4-0 lead, Danvers missing its first three shots before Mike Nestor swished a three-pointer from the corner to get Danvers’ scoring under way.

Next thing, you know, the Falcons were making four straight shots — all three-pointers — from Rashad Francois, Vinny Clifford and Devonn Allen (2) — staking Danvers to a 17-6 lead. It was 23-14 after one, 40-19 after two and the Warriors never gotx closer than 57-43 early in the fourth quarter after that.

Halftime stats were telling. Sophomore point guard deluxe Allen led the Falcons with 18 points on 3-for-3 shooting from beyond the arc (an NBA-like 9-for-15 in threes for the game). The Falcons made 7-of-9 treys by intermission while hitting 8-of-13 from the foul line. The Falcons held Wakefield scoreless for the first 4:35 of the second quarter.

The two biggest negatives for the 22-0 Falcons would be their foul shooting (17-for-27) and their 16 turnovers, the same as Wakefield. The Falcons must take better care if the ball, and that will mean giving Allen some help getting the ball up the floor against defensive pressure. Rest assured Latin, a decided underdog come Monday, will do everything in its power to rattle Allen, who has emerged as the Falcons’ most valuable and consistent player over the last several weeks, especially in the pressure games.

That assignment will most likely go to sixth man Rashad Francois (12 points tonight) and possibly forward Clifford, who’s a better ball-handler than he gets credit four. A third option might be backup guard Tre Crittendon who got little playing time tonight but could be the answer if Latin — or an other couture opponent — tries to put there clamps on Allen.

The Falcons are better foul shooters than they have shown the last couple weeks. Hopefully they will improve as their tournament ride proceeds.

Devan Harris finished with 11 points and eight rebounds, Clifford 10 points on 2-for-5 in threes, and Merry was his usual Mr. Intimidation on defense with nine rebounds and five blocks to go with his six points.

The Falcons were bothered  somewhat by Wakefield’s pressure defense. They will want to handle Latin’s pressure better than this come Monday.

All in all, an encouraging start on the Road to Worcester.

  • It has been reported that the North section finals will not be played at the customary Tsongas Arena in Lowell next Saturday because of a schedule conflict with the UMass-Lowell hockey team. Instead of the Division 1-2-3 boys and girls finals at Tsongas, the six games will be played on six different sites. Stay tuned.
  • Terrific Danvers turnout, but the fans made as much noise as church mice, with the exception of the Falcon Fanatics, the high school students who sit together at the north end of the home side bleachers. Let’s go folks. Make lots of noise Monday night, will you!!!!????
  • There’s no question the Falcons’ No. 1 offensive weapon is their three-point offensive machine that features four players before tonight and five now that Nestor, a defensive specialist, has finally canned a three.  And if teams stretch out their defenses to defend against it, look for Harris and Merry to go crazy with their inside games.
  • I hope Danvers fans appreciate they have the best P.A. voice on the North Shore in Steve Avigian.
  • Wakefield players were mighty chippy. On one occasion Andrew Auld threw Francois down to the floor and was assessed a technical. On another occasion Allen got bumped in the head or poked in the eye while rolling on the floor during a scramble for a loose ball.
  •  Walsh, who grew up in Wakefield and lives in Wakefield with his family, has led the Falcons to an unfathomable  17-2 tournament record. And this historic run, unimaginable five years ago, continues.




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