Danvers’ Fabulous Falcons Fight Off Arlington, 50-47, For Division 2 North Crown; Allen, Harris, Close The Deal; Bp. Feehan Gets Rematch With Falcons Tuesday Night In TD Garden In Eastern Mass. Final

When the Danvers High Boys’ basketball team’s dreams of a perfect season hung in the balance Saturday night in the Tsongas Center, any one of several Falcons could have delivered the heroics.

But it was the youngest among them, sophomore point guard Devonn Allen, who provided the one mighty play that led to the Falcons’ pulsating 50-47 victory over Middlesex League champ Arlington in the Division 2 North final.

After the Spy Ponders had taken their first lead of the second half at 47-46 on sophomore Colin McNamara’s three-point bomb with 1:25 remaining, fast forward to the 30-second mark.

Allen, who’d struggled in the backcourt and been held to four points, found a seam and dribbled coast to coast after a missed three attempt by the same Mr. McNamara, was fouled on the shot bid in close, then had the entire Danvers High basketball world on his shoulders. He needed to make one shot to tie, two to take the lead.

So all the cool-as-a-customer Allen, who’d played a terrific defensive  game, did, as the clock showed only 21 seconds remaining, was sink both free throws to regain the lead, 48-47, an advantage they did not relinquish.

From there Arlington (24-2) missed two long shots, one from their top player, forward Miles Robinson with about 12 seconds left, then, after Danvers had apparently lost the rebound out of bounds, McNamara air-balled another 3-point attempt, Danvers’ Devan Harris grabbing the rebound, getting fouled immediately, and sinking both ends of a 1-and-1 with 3.5 seconds left for the final margin. Robinson missed wildly one last attempt as the horn went off.

It should also be noted that the Falcons’ rugged defense held Arlington to three points in the last 2:40 after the game had been tied at 44.

The Falcons had won their 25th game of the year without a loss and earned the right to play familiar foe Bp. Feehan Tuesday night in TD Garden at 7:30 for the Eastern Massachusetts Division 2 title. The winner advances to the state final Saturday at the DCU Center in Worcester at 4 p.m. against the Central/West victor. Bp. Feehan, a 60-56 loser to Danvers in the first round of the Comcast/Arbella Board 27 Tournament back in mid-February, moved to 18-5 by defeating Oliver Ames, 58-53, for the Division 2 South title Saturday

The Perils of Pauline have nothing on the tension-packed, emotion-charged wins the Falcons have pulled off in their last two games, first their Herculean effort required to beat Brighton at Woburn in the North semifinal, then this ferocious defense battle with Arlington.

The game was close all the way, though Danvers owed 11-6 early, trailed 15-11 after once quarter, trailed 23-18 midway through the second but grabbed a 29-25 intermission lead keyed by Harris’s’ 10 second quarter points en route to another mammoth scoring night, 26 points total, including his team’s first 10 points of the fourth quarter and 12 of the team’s 14  total for the quarter.

The Falcons had chances to extend a five-point lead in the third quarter but couldn’t do it, and with defense ruling the eight minutes, Danvers remained ahead 36-32 moving to the climactic fourth quarter.

Pivotman Peter Merry (8 points, 6 blocks, 9 rebounds) had been a huge force in the first quarter, when he scored all of his points, but he had to sit for some time after getting his second personal foul early in the second, his third with 59 seconds left in the third, and when he was assessed his fourth personal 58 seconds into the fourth quarter.

But each time his teammates hekld the fort, never allowed a momentum swing, usually maintained a modest cushion, until Arlington inched its way back in from a 42-35 deficit with 5:16 left.

The Spy Ponders finally knotted the score at 44 on Matt Moroney”s steal at the top of the key and all-the-way layup with 2:40 left. But Harris, whose value to this team could never be overstated, drove to the hoop at the other end 25 seconds later for a 46-44 DHS edge.

The rest of the nerve-wracking finish has been noted above, except that both teams missed chances to make big plays that could have changed the way the last 90 seconds evolved.

Danvers survived despite making back-to-back turnovers (18 total to Arlington’s 11), the first of which set up McNamara’s lead-changing three with 1:25 to go.

The collective heart of this Fabulous Falcons’ team gets larger and larger every game. As does Coach John Walsh’s knack for calling the right plays at the right time and making the correct subs at the correct time.

They pulled this one out despite having only one player in double figures (Harris’s 26, to go along with seven boards and two blocks), an otherwise repeat poor shooting night, which they also survived against Brighton.

One of the keys in making up for those two major shortcomings (field goal percentage and turnovers) was another great job at the foul line (11 for 13; they took only two foul shots the second half until Allen and Harris sank the biggest free throws of the game in the last 21 seconds).

A second key was the phenomenal job Allen and sixth man Rashad Francois did on Robinson, who was held to 11 points, four in txhe first half, and only two field goals.

The Falcons were short on three-pointers as well, usually one of their best offensive weapons. They made only two, both by Vinny Clifford (8 points, cool shooting but solid play on defense and reliable ball-handling/passing when needed.

Great teams find ways to win no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the in-game setbacks might be. This Danvers Falcons’ unit is proving to be just that. Greatness personified.

Thus, history is their friend and foe with two games standing their way of a 27-0 state championship season, which would match the record notched by the 1980 Salem High girls en route to their only Division 1 state title.

The Falcons can become, I believe, the first team to win one (in their case two in a row) Division 3 title, then  move up two years later and win the Division 2 state title.

Walsh is now 102-19 in his five years as Danvers coach, 20-2 in tournament play. May the history-making resume Tuesday at North Station.




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