Danvers High’s Fabulous Falcons Beat Back Brighton, 65-58; Reach Fourth Straight North Section Final

Champions find a way to handle adversity. No better example can be found than the way the Fabulous Falcons of Danvers High defeated Brighton, 65-58, tonight at Woburn High School and advanced to their fourth straight North Section final.

The 24-0 Falcons, top-seeded and No. 1-ranked in The Boston Globe “Top 20,” justified their worthiness for such respect in what may have been the toughest opponent they will face in their hoped-for march to a third state championship in four years.

The Falcons will play for the Division 2 North Section title Saturday at 4:15 at Tsongas Arena in Lowell against the winner of Thursday night’s other semifinal game between No. 2 seed Arlington (21-1) and No. 3 seed Tewksbury (20-4), also set for Woburn High (7 p.m.).

If the Falcons are successful Saturday, they play the South Section champ Tuesday at 7:30 in TD Garden for the Eastern Mass. Division 2 title. The final step to the state title would take place on Saturday, March 14, at the DCU Center in Worcester against the Central-West champ at 4 p.m,.

There were more than a few Danvers loyalists, including this blogger, who entered the Woburn High gym tonight filled with trepidation, after Brighton’s 19-point victory over Salem Monday. Danvers had barely beaten Salem, 39-37, at Danvers back in January.

But we were happily reminded that you get nowhere comparing scores, especially when one of them is six weeks old.

As was the case against Lynn English, Brighton posed a major threat to the Falcons’ winning streak because of its quickness, athleticism and offensive rebounding might.

But the Falcons were able to handle all of that, grabbing a 15-13 first quarter lead, even though missing 5-of-6 three-point attempts. Devan Harris, nearing the coveted 1000-point plateau as he concludes his two-year DHS career, had eight points in the first quarter and 17 for the half, at which point Danvers was on top, 34-27. The 6-3 power forward was game-high scorer with 26.

Devonn Allen, the team’s sophomore point guard, sat out the last 1:54 of the second quarter after getting hit with his third personal foul, yet the Falcons were able to extend their lead from four points to seven.

Brighton was a mediocre shooting team from start to finish, actually morse effective as a team that used penetration to the basket. Brighton (18-5) stayed close to the Falcons throughout the second half, but never could get over the hump. Conversely, Danvers had more than one chance to break the game open could never do it.

The Falcons never made it easy for themselves, but showed the class of a champion by how they handled every hurdle. Example: when Allen got hit with his fourth personal with 2:01 left in the third on a charging call, it was a three-point game. But in his second stint at relieving Allen, Tre Crittendon sparkled bringing ghee ball up the floor and finding open teammates. His defense was vital to the cause as well.

Allen returned at 48-44 with 5:49 left and the Falcons made their game-deciding move. Clifford (14 points, 12 in the first half, 5-for-18 shooting, 3-for-12 on 3s) hit a 16-footer (watch him break out with a big game Saturday), then Merry (5 blocks, 13 points, 11 rebounds) hit on one of his patented inside moves on a nifty pass from Harris, and it seas 52-44.

The lead peaked at 55-45 on another Merry finisher in tight, but he fouled out at 57-50 with 2:1t5 remaining.

The Falcons held the fort nicely, though, with everyone contributing in crunch time, especially sixth man Rashad Francois (8 points), who stabilized there floor game and sank four straight foul shots in the last half a minute to cinch the decision.

This team showed amazing heart once again, reminiscent of the 79-78 victory at Lynn English, with all seven members of the regular rotation making a clutch play to help ensure the victory.

A huge factor was the foul line, where the Falcons were a marvelous 16-for-19, opposed to Brighton’s 13-for-25.

Mike Nestor played another solid defensive game and Crittendon’s playing experienced with the heat on should serve him and the team well come Saturday’s Section final.

For all the incessant defensive pressure Brighton applied, there Falcons committed fewer turnovers, 11 to BHS’s 14.

Even though Merry eventually fouled out, Coach John Walsh was adept in handling the Allen and Merry foul trouble issues with his substitutions.

Now, it’s on to Lowell for this extraordinary group of young men and their masterful coach, who is now 101-19 at the DHS helm. As a Danvers High hoop follower for more than 50 years, I keep reminding myself that this unprecedented run by a North Shore boys’ basketball team, let alone a Danvers High team, is not a dream. It is truly happening. No North Shore boys team has ever made four straight North section finals. Until now.

Thus, the Falcons’ wondrous road to the ultimate goal — Worcester — continues,



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