Danvers Boys Cagers Maul Masconomet, 80-51; Arguably Best Win Of The Year; Now 16-4 With Title Game On Tap Wednesday At Peabody (7pm)

BOXFORD —  There may have been some concern entering Sunday afternoon’s Cancer Awareness benefit game at Masconomet  that the Danvers High boys might look beyond the Chieftains and think about Wednesday night’s huge game at Peabody with the Northeastern Conference Large Division title on the line.

Hogwash. Gibberish. The Falcons, playing possibly their best all-around game of the season against a high valued opponent (Masco is 10-4 in Cape Ann League, 10-9 overall), broke open a close game (34-27) by scoring the final 10 points of the third quarter for a 56-39) advantage and never let up from there.

They were on a 27-5 run when Sean Rooney hit his first of three threes midway through the final quarter and cruised to an 80-51 victory. The victory, the fourth in five straight road games (the one loss a two-pointer at Beverly), improved the Falcons’ record to 16-4 and set the stage for the final game of the regular season Wednesday night at 7 at vastly improved Peabody, who stunned Beverly Sunday to qualify for the Eastern Mass. tournament.

Assuming Lynn English beats Beverly Tuesday, the Falcons will need to beat Peabody to clinch the Northeastern Conference Large Division title by one game over English. The Falcons moved this school year into the NEC Large after winning four straight NEC Small titles and four successive overall NEC titles.

In making 10-of-30 three-pointers, the Falcons got a well balanced offensive output led by junior Devonn Allen’s 21 points, Rashad “Rudy” Francois’ 16 and Tre Crittendon’s 11. In two notable efforts off the bench, sophomore swing man Jon Weimert scored seven points, five straight in a pivotal second period stint, and Rooney, as mentioned, hit three treys.

“Part of the reason to play this game was to give some playing time to a few who don’t normally get much if any,” Coach John Walsh explained after his scintillating six-year record at DHS jumped to 121-23. “And I liked our results with Jon, Sean and others. The more players we can use off the bench, the better it is for us.”

Beyond that, his sensation six rotation players enjoyed an exceptional game, led by the aforementioned three, plus Mike Nestor, Kieran Moriarty and Tahg Coakley.

Their team rebounding was superb at both ends against a team that started two 6-5 frontcourt men, neither of whom played a major role. Moreover, Danvers’ dynamic “deny” defense, as usual, got grand results, leading to 19 Masco turnovers as opposed to the Falcons’ eight.

“The kids played hard, smart ball at both ends and especially in disrupting their offensive plans,” Walsh added. “They really went for the ball off the glass.”

He offered particular praise for Weimert, whose five straight points late in the second session increased a 26-23 advantage to 31-23 on a three-point play layup on a nifty feed from Allen and two free throws.

“Jon was ready to play and played great when his chance came offensively and on defense,” Walsh said. Don’t be surprised if he gets another shot at some serious playing time at Peabody.

But Walsh was pleased with everyone who played. This observer has not seen the team rebound with this much ferociousness all season.

I can attest to one other thing. The sizable group of Division 2 North coaches and scouts who took in the game surely do not want to play the defending state champs until the championship game, if at that.

Since losing 68-66 at Beverly, the Falcons have looked better and better in now winning three straight on the road and hope to win one more Wednesday at Peabody. They clearly look like they are gearing up for a strong run in the tournament. A win Wednesday should assure them of home games the first two rounds of the EMass North II event. They currently ride a 29-game home victory streak.

This group, based on Walsh’s revamped offense that focuses on three-point open shots and finding lanes to penetrate to the basket, just may be a co-favorite, even without a big man. They’re showing ways to contain rival big men and rebound as well as need to to win pressure games. To watch them Sunday almost makes you wonder how they lost four games by a combined 11 points. We saw those games, we know how they lost them, and we know they lost three of those games by 2, 2, and 1 point.

Can’t wait for Wednesday and the beginning of their state title defense next week (after the seedings/pairings come out over the weekend).

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