Danvers Boys Cagers NEC Champions Again; Pop Peabody, 62-53, For First NEC Large Title; Finish 17-4; Should Be Seeded No. 3 Or No. 4 For Defense Of Their Divisiion 2 State Title

How do we love this overachieving, never-quit, buzz-saw defending Danvers High boys basketball team?? Let us count the ways — take a deep breath — after their second-half blitzing 62-53 victory over host Peabody Wednesday night in the PHS “dark” house.

  • For winning, in their first attempt, the Northeastern Conference Large Division championship with a 13-3 record, edging Lynn English by a single game.
  • For winning five of their last six regular season games, all on the road, to finish the regular season an amazing 17-4 — when pre-season prognosticators figured the defending Division 2 state champs, minus their three big men (top scorers and rebounders at 6-10, 6-4 and 6-3) graduated and left the returnees with no one bigger than 6-1.
  • For earning the No. 3 or┬áNo. 4 seeding in Division 2 North for the Section tourney that gets under way next week, with the Falcons expected to get two home games at the start.
  • For turning back a vastly improved Peabody squad that was coming off strong victorious efforts against Somerville and Beverly and hungry for revenge after losing its earlier game at Danvers by 41 points.
  • For leading 13-10 after one quarter despite shooting 4-for-18 from the field, 3-for-14 in threes, and aided by causing seven Tanner turnovers while committing only one themselves.
  • For leading 25-23 at halftime, keyed by successive three-pointers by reserve launcher Justin Roberto (3 threes for the night) and a blood thirsty ball-hawking defense that created 12 Peabody turnovers to DHS’s four; all the while as top scorers Rudy Francois was shooting 1-for-11 from the floor and Devonn Allen, after swishing his first trey attempt of the game for an early 3-0 lead, was making 1-of-5 while being badgered by a pesky Peabody box-and-1 defense. And, despite the fact the Falcons were at that point 5-for-21 in threes.
  • For the phenomenal job Mike Nestor and then Allen, an underrated defender, did guarding Peabody’s top player, 6-3 Junior Estrella, whom they held to four points for the night after he scored 20 in his most recent game against Somerville.
  • For responding to a shaky second half start, falling behind 28-25, by running off 12 straight points on three nifty inside power moves by sixth man deluxe Tahg Coakley, plus three-pointers from Francois and Tre Crittendon. Coakley scored a career-high 16.
  • For taking command at 41-32 after three quarters, a 16-9 eight-minute stretch in which the Falcons coughed up the ball once to Peabody’s six times.
  • For the way the Falcons once again showed a fourth quarter killer instinct — this is getting gloriously routine — never letting the Tanners (11-10) get closer than seven points the rest of the way, much of it the result of Danvers’ smothering, ball-stripping defense engineered by the Superman-like, stamina displayed by Francois, as well as by Crittendon, Coakley and Allen.
  • For the beautifullky balanced scoring, from Francois (19) to Coakley (16), Crittendon (9), Roberto (9), Allen (5) and board banger Kieran Moriarty (4).
  • For winning the turnover battle 11-21, when it was 7-21 until the final two garbage time minutes.
  • For the unwavering mastery of Coach John Walsh, who is now 122-23 in six magical seasons as the man in charge, with five straight NEC titles, four in NEC Small, this one in NEC Large, plus the three state titles, plus the four NEC overall titles before Salem, the NEC Small champs, beat them out this time around.
  • For the joyful comments expressed after the game by Walsh, Coakley, Francois and Allen.
  • From Coakley: “This is a great feeling. These wins and titles don’t come without a lot of hard work,. Coach makes sure we work hard so that the games don’t seen so tough pressure-wise or stamina-wise. I got a great feeling being able to contribute this way offensively. Their defense gave me room to attack the basket so I took it.”
  • From Francois, whose overall brilliance from one end of the court to the other, even during his rare cold shooting streaks, seem to play a huge factor in every game: “They (Peabody) made it hard for us, but this was a must win for us. We never let up. We kept attacking them on defense and it paid off. We also don’t want to let each other down, so we seem to always have more energy than the other team. It’s helped, too, that we’ve stayed healthy this year, like last year. Very fortunate.”
  • From Allen, after arguably his finest defensive effort of the year, no matter who he was guarding, but especially when he was handling Estrella: “It’s exciting to win another title. You never get sick of winning games or titles. We were in a little trouble the second half, but we stuck together, we stepped up our defense especially and got results. The offense picked up too (36 points) and we finished them off.”
  • From Coach Walsh, who has attained a six-year won-lost record that may never be matched on the North Shore, Greater Boston or the state on the boys side: “I’m happy for the kids. They deserve this title. It’s another nice award for the kids, the program and Danvers High. Tahg was just immense off the bench. The defense got the job done the second half — Peabody shot the ball like a very tired group — and Rashad was just wonderful once again. He leads us all over the floor and seems to be our top player for disrupting opposing offenses.”

Now we wait for the Div. 2 North seedings by the weekend, with the Falcons expected to be awarded two home games, assuming they win the first.

For right now, though, Hail the Falcons — the NEC Large Division champions!!!!!!!!

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