Returning to the scene of a heartbreaking, buzzer-beating 61-60 loss to Malden Catholic in the Saugus Christmas Tournament, the Danvers High boys basketball team was back in the SHS gym Friday night for its lone meeting of the season with the Sachems and suffered another unpleasant experience.
Not a last-second winning put-back basket by their opponents, but an unnecessarily chippy confrontation with the home team that, thanks to the poor job from the officials, led to a brawl early in the fourth quarter, with Danvers in charge 47-34, that involved players against players and fans against fans.
The Falcons (7-3) had the game reasonably in hand, thanks to Rashad “Rudy” Francois’s spectacular 24-point effort, keyed by 18 first half points and dazzling 5-for-6 marksmanship from three-point land, even though Mike Nestor and Tre Crittendown each was playing with four fouls. At that juncture a shoving match ensued while the Falcons had possession at their offensive end of the floor (directly in front of this observer).
A couple shoves, with a couple players hitting the deck, led to a full-scale, but short-lived, donnybrook first among players on both teams, then adult fans. Led by Coaches John Walsh and Paul Moran, order was restored within 90 seconds of the start of it, but not before Moran was shaken up by presumably a stray elbow or knee.
Worst of all, adult fans on both sides shamed themselves by their irresponsible actions. A large segment of male fans convened on the court in the most malicious fashion, ruining a game that could have been saved. The players to that point on both sides had shown admirable restraint in light of the fact the officiating stunk and the two refs were not properly controlling the game.
Initially, after both teams retreated to their locker rooms, the coaches and referees decided to resume the game, but not until the gym was cleared of all fans. But after the building was pretty much cleared, the two coaches decided to call it a night right then and there.
Final score: Danvers 47, Saugus 34 with 5:44 remaining.
The coaches will have to make out reports to their athletic directors, principals and to Larry McIntire, commissioner of the Northeastern Conference. The two officials will, too, and when the dust has cleared, some players may be suspended for one or more games and, from this humble perspective, the two officials should face disciplinary action as well. The game was being taped, so there will be access for all parties to review the incident and take proper– and fair — action.
Hopefully no players were injured. During the game action, the smaller Danvers team seemed to get the worst of it from Saugus’s physical play inside and out, but not to such a degree that it should have led to the mess that was created.
On a positive note, powered by Francois, the Falcons at one stage were 6-for-11 in threes, later 8-for-16, and finished 8-for-20. Danvers led 10-0 at the start, 16-7 after one quarter, 33-21 at the break and 45-27 after three. Fifteen turnovers didn’t help. The Falcons’s grinding man-to-man defense paid dividends as usual. Francois had 18 points at the half.
The Falcons host Gloucester Tuesday then play at Marblehead Friday.