Danvers boys cagers capture Holliston Keough Tourney; Outclass Division 1 Framingham 74-62; ‘Big 3’ Clutch With Francois Scoring 31, Crittendon 18, Allen 17; Move to 15-4; Next Face Masconomet Sunday in Boxford

Facing their fourth stern test in six days and their second back-to-back challenge in the same timeframe, the Danvers High boys’ basketball team played one of its best games of the year in defeating Division 1 tournament-bound Framingham, 74-62, Monday night in the title game of the Holliston High/Keough Tournament.

In improving to 15-4, the Falcons got another tremendous scoring effort from their “Big 3.” Rashad “Rudy” Francois scored a career-high 31 points (his second 30-pointer of the season), Tre Crittendon regained his three-point shooting touch with 18 (including four threes) and junior Devonn Allen added 17, also boosted by four treys, despite playing the last four minutes with a gimpy ankle.

The game boiled down to the final three minutes, at which point Framingham had whittled a 50-37 late third quarter deficit to within 61-58. But first Francois hit his fifth three-bagger if the night with 1:r5 left, then Allen hit an even longer range “3” while double teamed as the shot clock wound down to make it 670-58 with 1:15 left.  School was out for Framingham, which had routed host Holliston the night before, 71-44.

It also didn’t hurt the Falcons’ cause that they made seven of eight foul shots in the last 48 seconds to add the icing to the victory cake.

As has been the custom, the Falcons struggled with their three-point accuracy (13-for-32), but made the two huge threes near the end and also hit four straight in the first quarter to wipe out a 9-3 early hole and lead 21-12 after eight minutes. hey led the rest of the way, though the Flyers made several runs at the defending Division 2 state champs.

This win was about so much more than 36 points worth of three-pointers, though. It was about another strong defensive performance against a strong offensive opponent that had outside shooting, reliable penetrators and rugged offensive rebounders.

The Falcons’ mauling man defense, which including some trapping and a little zone, caused 15 FHS turnovers to Danvers’ nine. It also was about another marvelous offensive showing (with four steals added to the mix) by the nearly unstoppable Francois, a rejuvenated Crittendon, who sat for the last six minutes of the first half in foul trouble, of solid defensive and rebounding efforts by Mike Nestor and Kieran Moriarty, and an all-star performance at both ends by junior guard/forward Allen, who has taken his game to a new level in the last week.

This observer feared the Falcons were in serious trouble when Allen got involved with a scramble on the floor for the ball and got up limping badly, favoring an ankle with 4:06 remaining in the third, with DHS leading 43-36. But he walked and ran off the pain, played the last 12 minutes. He canned a three a minute after the mishap and made a strong drive in which he was fouled and made both foul shots.

Allen didn’t take a shot in the fourth quarter until the final three minutes, during which he missed two open three-pointers from the corner. But he made the one that mattered most, as noted, with 75 seconds left as the game clincher.

Moreover, he was reliable handling the ball, defending and rebounding. You’d never have known he’d crunched his ankle halfway through quarter three.

You just have to love this team.  This is a recording. Little size, a mostly guard and small forward lineup, thin support off the bench. But they keep getting the job done while being 11 points away from a possible perfect record.

When the team celebrated its perfect 27-0 NEC and state championship season last April, one wondered how they would stay above .500 losing its three top players, all frontcourt studs in 6-10 Peter Merry, 6-4 Vinny Clifford and 6-4 Devon Harris. But look what they’ve done!

The Falcons are in terrific position to finish 17-4 if they can beat Masconomet Sunday in Boxford (2:30 tip after the girls matchup) and then beat host Peabody Wednesday night, which would also mean a fifth successive NEC Large Division title after winning four Small Division crowns in a row.

Even though Coach John Walsh, unquestionably the best coach in the region, has not appreciated the team’s defensive effort of late, especially last week’s showing at Lynn Classical (a win) and at Beverly (a 2-point setback), there is no doubt the effectiveness of the team defense and the way it produces a bundle of rival turnovers is critical to the team’s success. Add to that the three-point factor — when they make enough of them and at the right time, like tonight versus Framingham — and their ability to attack the basket on 1-on-1 matchups (hello Rashad, Devonn and Trey in particular), this is one slug of a team to beat.

They can now rest as they set their sights on Masconomet, who will be a big underdog Sunday, then really get primed for Peabody with all its championship implications.

One sidelight from the two-day tourney: Mike Scarfo, a member of the 2012 state championship (Div. 3) team, the first of three state title teams Walsh guided at DHS in the last four years, is now an assistant for Framingham as he completes his education at Framingham State.

“Yes, it was a little strange facing my old coach and team,”  Scarfo said, “but that’s alled moving on. I’m glad Coach and the program keeps doing so well, but I wasn’t looking for them to do well tonight. But they deserved it. They’ll be a challenge for anyone facing them in Division 2.”



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