In watching my first Danvers High girls’ basketball game in a couple years Thursday night, I may be getting a tad bit carried away. But after reassessing, I come up with the same conclusion. This edition of Coach Pat Veilleux’s Lady Falcons may have exactly what it takes to capture its first Northeastern Conference title in goodness how long.
What most impressed me in their 59-55 overtime victory over Lynn Classical in the DHS Fieldhouse (when is it going to be named — at least the court, or the Danvers bench area — for John Walsh?) was their ability to to recover from a disastrous final 3:45 in regulation, during which they were outscored, 11-2 (thank goodness for Elena Clifford’s two free throws with 48 seconds left),or they would have been shut out and lost the game.
For they played the overtime like champions, outscoring Classical (2-2) by a 6-2 count, keyed by three huge defensive plays, all steals, by Nicole White (leading to the game-clinching hoop), Lily Montanari and Siobhan Moriarty, setting up baskets by White (2) and Moriarty.
All this after it appeared the Falcons had put the Paris Wilkey-led (24 points) Lynners away when Montanari’s put-back made it 51-42 with 3:45 remaining in regulation.
“I played too much strategy from that point,” Veulleux admitted after his squad improved to 4-0 for the first time in six years. “Too much clock management and that led to some sloppy ball handling against Classical’s zone press. We’ll work on that during our layoff (until January 3). They could have been reeling entering the overtime but they got down to business and played a great four-minute stretch. You’re always thinking we have to score some points after having that dry spell to end the regulation, but pleasantly it was the defense that won that game for us in the overtime.”
Plays, I might add, that championship teams make. Sarah Unczur, keyed by a phenomenal two-way third quarter with 10 points and two blocked shots, led the Falcons with 21 points, 10 rebounds and three rejections total. Montana added 16 points, 10 boards and four steals. Both are junior forwards.Clifford, sister of former DHS star Vinny Clifford (now playing for Endicott College) and Bishop Fenwick Merrimack College standout Mike Clifford. added eight points, the same as Moriarty. White scored six.
White and Moriarty make a fantastic 1-2 backcourt punch at both ends. Anyone can make the big play and the others mentioned, plus Julia McNulty (foul trouble versus Lynn) and Tina Gigli, Sarah McCarriston and Lydia Runnals give Veilleux a solid nine-player rotation.
When I walked into the field house with Anne, Danvers led 6-0 and I thought this might be a cakewalk. Wrong. At 8-0 Classical responded with eight straight of its own and the back-and-forth battle was on. But in the end, the Falcons had what it takes to remain unbeaten.
“We’re ahead of schedule, but there’s much room for improvement” Veilleux, the most quotable coach on the North Shore hoop scene, admitted before joining assistant Jon Levine and the team for a post-victory pizza before breaking for Christmas. “Anyone can make the big play. We have some solid rebounders and defenders inside, good help off the bench. We’re still learning, but there is definitely potential here. Looking forward to seeing where we go with it after the New Year.”
As we all are.
The Danvers High boys, under new coach Jay Giddings, staged one of the greatest comebacks in DHS boys hoop history Thursday night at Classical before falling, 57-51.
The Falcons trailed 40-16 in the third quarter, but keyed by some nifty three-point shooting from Sean Rooney (3 in a row) and a late trey and driving layup from Justin Roberto that cut the deficit to 56-51 with 28 seconds left, the visitors gave the home team one major fright.
The Falcons may be 0-3, but they have played hard in all three encounters and promise to put together a major streak of wins soon.