Danvers Cagers’ Win Streak Stopped at 28 at Lynn English, 54-52; Squander a 48-37 Lead After Three Quarters

Returning to the site of one of their greatest wins during last year’s historic 27-0, Northeastern Conference and MIAA Division 2 state title runs, the Danvers High boys basketball team nearly pulled off another victory for the ages Friday night, but stumbled down the stretch, scoring only four fourth quarter points while losing at Lynn English, 54-52.

The Falcons (1-1) displayed championship heart for the entire game, battling the bigger Bulldogs even on the boards and holding their own nicely in what evolved into a game of survival while both teams played muscular man-to-man defense at both ends, English also using some midcourt traps that worked sometimes, not so much others.

The fact is the Falcons led after each of the first three checkpoints, 13-9, 27-23 and 48-37, and still led by 11, 50-39, with six minutes left. It was 48-34 with 1:35 left in the third. Little did they know that they would manage to score only two points the rest of the way (a Rashad Francois short baseline jumper after a nice feed from Tahg Coakley that made it 52-48 with 3:30 remaining).

Playing only six men, this observer thinks possibly the Falcons, as superb a shape as they are in, might have run out of gas — and energy —  down the stretch, since they shot only 2-for-13 (guesstimate) the final eight minutes. Amazingly, the Falcons did not get to the foul line once in the fourth quarter and only once the entire second half, as the refs called 10 fouls on Danvers for the half and only six on the more aggressive, board-crashing Bulldogs, who were 6-for-11 from the line the second half. That’s an 11-1 difference, ladies and gentlemen.

It didn’t help either that the Falcons were 5-for-18 from three-point land, but the most important sequence in the game involved two fouls on the best player on the floor, junior Falcon guard Devonn Allen, midway through the final quarter.

It was 50-39 when Allen (17 points, same as the newly-anointed offensive force Mike Nestor) was called for a reach in as an English player drove the lane, when it appeared Allen had made a clean steal of the ball. That was No. 4 on Allen. Coach John Walsh pulled Allen briefly, but when English scored two quick buckets off steals, he had no choice but to put Allen back in the game.

Exactly 90 seconds after getting a most questionable fourth foul, Allen was whistled for his fifth (and final) foul — a legitimate call — after a loose ball near midcourt after a Danvers miss, the result of a floor collision with an English player. This occurred with 4:20 remaining.

Allen’s teammates almost held on for the victory, though they only scored two points the rest of the way. They had their chances, but in the last three minutes of possessions Danvers suffered a traveling violation and three missed shots the rest of the way. After English went ahead 54-52 on one free throw made with 24 seconds left, Danvers got the rebound, called time, worked for a good shot, never took one, then Walsh called one last timeout with 5.6 seconds, after which English’s defense bottled up the ball and Nestor took a wild 15-footer while doubled up as the horn sounded.

Chalk it up as a major learning experience for Walsh’s six-man rotation; a courageous effort that looked so encouraging after three quarters, but which taught them a painful lesson the final eight minutes.

All six regulars played their hearts out, and that made every Danvers fan in attendance, including 65 “Falcon Fanatics,” very proud. Newcomer Kieran Moriarty shows great promise along with returning vets Kenneth Crittendon, Allen, Francois, Nestor (wonderfully improved offensively) and Coakley. But they know they need to  take better care of the ball and connect on more of their excellent scoring opportunities inside and out to have a chance to successfully defend their title.

A 28-game win streak may be dead, but a new rope of victories hopefully begins Monday when the Falcons open their home schedule at 7 against Peabody, which lost to English by one Tuesday night. This will be another excellent test for the four-time defending NEC champs.



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