Danvers High Boys Cagers Rip Latin Academy; Nestor Sparkles on Defense; Brighton next on Wednesday

We have become so spoiled by the historic, four-year brilliance of Coach John Walsh and the Danvers High boys’ basketball team that our expectations are often bloated beyond belief.

Case in point was the undefeated (23-0) Falcons’ 64-48 victory over Latin Academy (15-8) Monday night in near-capacity DHS field house in their Division North 2 quarterfinal encounter.

Danvers missed its first five three-point attempts, a staple of their exciting offense all season, especially in their last half dozen games. Horrors! It was only 8-8.

From a 23-10 advantage early in the second quarter, Latin Academy, sparked by the 18-first half points from diminutive point guard Rayshawn Miller, drew within 28-24 at intermission, thanks to Miller’s three-pointer off the glass at the buzzer.

A four-point game!!!  Egads! Panic time.

(As an aside, when was the last time you saw three-pointers delivered at the buzzer to close out each of the first two quarters? It happened on this occasion. Danvers’ Devonn Allen made a three to end the first quarter for a 16-8 Falcon lead.)

Back to the scenario.

The second half began with Allen stripping Miller of the ball and setting up a three-point play by Devan Harris (21 points) at the other end. From that juncture forward, the unheralded Mike Nestor applied the defensive clamps on Miller, holding the talented player to two points in the quarter. The Falcons led, 48-33, sat the break. Game over (although it was only 35-31 before the Northeastearn Conference champs began pulling away for good).

Nestor may have scored only two points, but his fabulous defense on Miller loomed large in the decisive third quarter.

“Mike defended really well, played Miller really tough,” Walsh said after improving his five-year career record at Danvers to 101-19. “That’s his strength and he showed it tonight. He denied Miller the ball more, made him play the full court and it seemed to affect his offense.

“Overall, though, well, we better play better next time (Wednesday at Woburn at 7 against 19-4 Brighton, a 63-44 winner over Salem, in the semifinal round). This was not a great showing for us as a team.”

Vinny Clifford, after a rocky first half (4 points), finished with 20 and Allen added 12.

Although Danvers is undefeated, the No. 1 seed in Division 2 North and the top-ranked team in the Boston Globe’s Top 20, Brighton will assume the favorite’s role for Wednesday’s showdown.

“The’ve beaten Mansfield and Everett, won games out of state,” Walsh said. “They won the Boston City title. In a word they’re awesome. We’ll need to play a very strong game.”

A sluggish start like tonight could prove fatal. On the other hand, Brighton beat Latin Academy by 16 in their only meeting. This matchup could determine the Div. 2 North champ, maybe the state Div. 2 champ.

A word to the wise: Get to Woburn High School early Wednesday. At least the Falcons know the gym, having beaten Bishop Feehan, 60-56, in the first round of the Comcast/Arbella tournament in late February.

Correction: Jeff Avigian worked his final game of the season as the P.A. announcer for the Falcon home games. He’s the best in the business around these parts.

Yes, that was Principal Sue Ambrozavitch helping with the cleanup crew after the game. How many principals contribute like that?


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