Danvers Cagers Face Toughest Test of Season Wednesday At Woburn: Brighton

When the MIAA Division 2 boys basketball pairings came out, the close observers predicted the Danvers-Brighton Division 2 North semifinal showdown could very likely determine the state champion.

None of those so-called experts’ opinions have wavered over the last 11 days, so it comes down to this Wednesday night at Woburn High School (7 p.m. tapoff). The undefeated (23-0), top-seeded, top-ranked Danvers Falcons against the very best the city of Boston has to offer — Brighton (19-4).

Neutral observers believe Brighton has the edge in virtually every department. But edges or no edges, the unforgettable story the Danvers Falcons have written, with the dramatic comeback of senior Vinny Clifford and the emergence of sophomore point guard Devonn Allen, may be an intangible not even Brighton’s on-paper superiority can defeat.

After Brighton’s 19-point victory Monday over Salem and Danvers’ struggling 64-48 victory over Latin Academy, the handicappers may still like Brighton by seven to nine points. No matter, here are the factors which must work in Danvers’ favor for the Faklcons to gain entry into their fourth straight North Division final, the second straight in Division 2:

  • A strong start, after slow starts in both tourney games to date, keyed by immediate dead-on sharpshooting by the aforementioned Clifford. When Clifford is on with his three-point and mid-range jumpers, the Falcons are tough to beat.
  • A solid, floor game from Allen, with a minimum of turnovers and another strong offensive showing from inside and out. His defense speaks for itself every game.
  • An outstanding two-way game from 6-10 pivot Peter Merry; shot blocking, rebounding at both ends, accurate shooting from in the paint and constant intimidation on any Brighton penetration.
  • An all-world game from Devan Harris, Merry’s reliable partner on the inside whether on offense or defense; a high percentage shooting the ball from the foul line and when getting he ball fed low. A couple three-pointers could loosen up the Brighton defense, a job that will also fall to Allen and Clifford, as well as to…
  • Sixth man Rashad Francois, whose all-around versatility in an up-tempo game like the Lynn English epic  a couple weeks ago should be vital Wednesday. His three-point capability could be key.
  • Fifth starter Mike Nestor, whose defensive wizardry in the third quarter against Latin Academy’s ace scorer (he scored 18 the first half, 2 points in the takeover third quarter) turned around the game, will need to have another big effort.
  • Seventh man Tre Crittendon will hopefully play his very best of the year, since it figures Brighton’s pressing defense will require him to contribute lots of minutes. He can score inside or out, defend and set up plays.
  • Lastly, Coach John Walsh, as he seems to be most every game, will need to be at his Belichickian Best, for this game is likely to be similar to the Lynn English game in momentum swings and critical decision-making.
  • Bottom line, may the Falcons give it their very best effort and let the chips fall where they may.


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