It’s been a long slog, but after jumping out to a 7-0 record, the Danvers High girls basketball team finally earned their 10th Eastern Mass. tournament berth in 11 years Tuesday night, defeating Newburyport in impressive fashion, 43-29, in the opening night of the second annual Ed Gieras Memorial Tournament – the Gieras Games — in the DHS fieldhouse.
In posting that much-sought 10th victory, the Falcons advance to tonight’s 7 p.m. title game against Natick, a 71-48 winner over Reading in the other matchup.
Sarah Unczur led Danvers with 13 points, eight straight coming in the first quarter when the home team jumped out to an 8-0 lead and led for the entire game. Lily Montanari added 11 off the bench and Nicole White scored nine for the 10-9 Falcons.
“A terrific effort from our girls made it happen tonight,” coach Pat Veilleux said. “The girls knew they needed to rise above it all – the struggles they’ve been dealing with the last few weeks – and they did. They showed tonight how resilient they can be under the most difficult of circumstances; the way they’ve dropped some tight games during this tailspin; games they know they could have won but didn’t. Tonight showed they can respond beautifully under unbelievable pressure.”
The bigger Falcons took care of business from the start and were in command throughout. Once the visiting Clippers drew within 10-5 at the end of the first quarter, Danvers extended its lead to start the second, made it 21-10 by halftime, keyed by seven second quarter points by “sixth player” Montanari, and led by double figures the entire second half.
“We had several major contributors tonight, starting with Sarah,” Veilleux said. “This had to be one of her best all around games – scoring, rebounding, defending – of the season. Nicole White showed excellent leadership at point guard. She changes the complexion of the game with her tenacity alone, but she does so many good things for us.
“We’re never going to be known for wearing the nets out at the offensive end,” Veilleux added, “so we try and make it happen at the defensive end, like tonight. Newburyport didn’t get many second shots and we controlled the boards. Bottom line, we played four quarter of solid basketball.”
It might be added against a feisty team with a winning record. But the Clippers suffered a horrendous shooting night, something of which the winners are quite familiar. But they got the job done from the get-go and move into the title game tonight against a powerful Natick team that must be considered the favorite.
At the same time, this matchup gives the Danvers girls a unique opportunity to get themselves in a “winning mode” heading into the Division 2 North Section tourney starting next week.
“All we can ask of ourselves is to give it our best shot against Natick,” Veilleux noted. “We do that and we’ll give Natick a battle to the end.”
Newburyport junior forward Paige Goldthorpe performed a masterful rendition of the national anthem…Both teamns left the court 10-9…Freshman forward Cheyenne Nessinger had two blocks…The Falcons need to cut back on the 23 turnovers they committed against NHS. The Clippers committed 29…Great job all year by Adam Skinner, Luke Llewellyn and Jack Murphy in selling 50-50 tickets at all DHS girls home games…Kristen Gieras, daughter of Ed Gieras, the former Danvers High and Salem State hoop standout, for whom the tournament is named, tossed up the ceremonial tapoff ball before the Natick-Reading joust. Her mom, Sue Gieras, will do the same before tonight’s championship game…NHS suffered a scoreless drought for the last 3:11 of the first quarter and the last 5:11 of the second.