Danvers’ Fabulous Falcons Show Championship Form; Beat Bp. Feehan Again, 51-40; Advance To State Title Game Saturday In Worcester

The Danvers High Fabulous Falcons’ basketball team was in “prime time” Tuesday night in TD Garden,¬†and when it was time to put up or shut upon the Division 2 state semifinal battle with Bp. Feehan, the Falcons pout up like great champions do.

After watching a 40-31 fourth quarter advantage sliced to 40-36 with only 3:41 remained, the Falcons, in the form of several faces, responded by getting big plays from four different players down the stretch, in the process silencing the raucous Shamrocks’ following and delivering a 51-40 victory.

The Fabulous Falcons, in improving to an unprecedented 26-0 record, a mark never before seen by a Danvers basketball team, earns the right to take one final step for immortality in the state championship final Saturday at 4 p.m, in Worcester’s DCU Center against Marlborough, a 65-58 winner over South Hadley today.

A win Saturday would close out the season at 27-0, the second Greater Salem team ever to accomplish that feat (with the 1980 Salem High girls). It would also make the Falcons the fourth team in Massachusetts high school history to win three state titles in four years since the division format was introduced in the 1970s, and the first to do it while moving up a division during that time frame. The Falcons won Division 3 state titles in 2012 and 2013.

Coach John Walsh’s dreammakers almost got sidetracked, though, when a 34-21 lead early in the third was reduced to 37-31 after three quarters, and then the team from Attleboro made yet another run in the finale.

But at 40-36, the Falcons showed why they are a team comprised of champions of the highest order.

After experiencing a shaky start to the fourth quarter personally (losing the ball twice in the lane while going for the basket, having one shot blocked and missing a shot in close), Devan Harris (16 points) scored on a gorgeous reverse layup to make it 42-36.

Then Vinny Clifford, on a nice feed from Devonn Allen, scored on a floating drive to the basket, got fouled and made the foul shot to make it 45-38 with 2:50 left.

Mike Nestor (a defensive star with the job he did on the three-inches-taller Frank Oftring) made a steal soon thereafter that set up a Harris foul shot (46-38 with 2:29 left), and Allen finished off a nifty give-and-go with Nestor to all but clinch it at 48-38 with 1:35 left.

The Falcons would not let Bp. Feehan (19-6) make yet another charge, as had been the case under similar circumstances during the Comcast/Arbella tournament in mid-February that ended with a 60-56 Danvers triumph.

Danvers thus won for the third time in four years in TD Garden under Walsh’s masterful leadership and will now try and make it 3-for-3 in state championship games Saturday.

All six Danvers players make vital contributions. Allen joined Harris in double figures with 13 points, including two three-pointers in the jittery-filled first quarter, added three steals, five assists and enjoyed a vastly improved floor game from the Arlington North section final win.

Peter Merry was his wonderfully intimidating self inside all night defensively, his seven points, five blocks and eight rebounds not doing justice to the overall game he had. Peter and comrades collectively played some marvelous man0to-man defense that limited Bp. Feehan to a horrendous 12-for-48 effort from there field (25 percent).

Nestor was his usual pesky self on defense, causing several turnovers and making some key plays in offense (as noted above).

Clifford made two huge buckets the second, the one already alluded to, as well as a driving layup through traffic in the third that peaked DHS’ lead at 34-21.

Lastly, sixth man Rashad Francois hit a gigantic three-pointer midway through there third that halted a Bp. Feehan run that had close a nine-pooint halftime gap to 25-21 less than three minutes into the third.

Harris’s presence on the floor provided the usual dividends, but he missed some significant time after getting slapped with his third folk 45 second short of the end of the second quarter.

Yet, the Falcons were able to once again hold the fort when Harris was stuck on the bench, as they did after Merry fouled out in the first meeting.

No mater what the situation, Walsh and charges have always found a way to deal with misfortune.

This game was no masterpiece. Neither team shot the ball well. Both teams committed way too many turnovers (Danvers 16, Bp. Feehan 17). The turnovers and 25 percent shooting accuracy are both a testament to the Falcons’ fierce man-to-man defense, holding the opponent to a mere 40 points in the biggest game those Shamrocks will probably ever play.

So the Falcons move to 102-19 in Walsh’s five years as coach, 21-2 in post-season play, with a third state championship clearly in their sights Saturday in Worcester.

Let the countdown to perfection continue.


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