One minute into the third quarter of Wednesday night’s Gieras Games championship encounter between heavily favored Natick and host Danvers High, the underdog Falcons were giving the visitors all they could handle in the DHS field house: Natick 29, Danvers 28.
Considering the opponent and the stakes, it may have been Danvers’ best 17-minute stretch of the season. This was one outstanding team they were facing; a squad that should make a run in the upcoming Eastern Mass. tournament. Facing a much bigger,better shooting and vastly superior inside power game, Danvers (now 10-10) was every bit Natick’s equal where it counted most – on the scoreboard.
But from that juncture forward, it was all Natick (now 14-6), the Redhawks riding the shoulders of super standout freshman center Brenna McDonald, already being eyed by college recruiters (19 points 13 rebounds, 9-for-11 from the foul line), and sharpshooting forward Makenna (“Three-point”) Range (21 points on 7-for-12 from behind the arc, most of them purer swishes), to a 59-38 victory.
Make no mistake, however. If the Falcons can extend that 17-minute stretch agains Natick to 20 or 25 minutes, they could emerge as a Cinderella team when the EMass tourney begins next week. Before, though, they play their “Endowment Game” (stats count, the win or loss does not) Friday at 6 at DHS.
“I can’t fault our effort that first half (which ended, 29-26),” Danvers coach Pat Veilleux declared, “and really the effort for the entire game. The fact we finished off plays offensively, made a good percentage of shots (6-12 in the first quarter) and forced a lot of Natick turnovers (11 by halftime, 19 after three quarters) are all encouraging signs as we move forward. We trailed by only 12 after three. Antic knew they were;t home free yet.
“But once they hit those two threes and s third field goal to open the fourth quarter, they were in control. Still, our players have a lot from this game to feel good about and if we can apply the good stuff for more than two quarters once we get in the tournament, we could surprise a few people.”
There were plenty of positives to take away from this defeat against a team that should be making news in their league and in the state tournament for the next several years, what with five if their top players either freshmen or sophomores, led by McDonald and sophomore Range.
McNulty (11 points) has regained her three-point shooting accuracy, while Sarah Unczur (Gieras Games All-Tourney team member with Nicole White), White, Elena Clifford, Siobhan Moriarty, Lilly Montanari, Lydia Runnals, and Cheyenne Messenger give the Falcons plenty of two-way talent to give opposing teams upcoming plenty to worry about.
“We accomplished our mission in beating Newburyport the first night and qualifying for the tournament (10th time in 11 years in his tenure),” Veilleux said. “We’d all have preferred a better outcome tonight, but we gave all we had and it was mighty good for most of three quarters. Now we go from here and see what we can do when the tourney bell rings next week.”
Tourney pairings will come out this weekend..In a pre-game ceremony, Gieras Games Committee members Veilleux and Mike Hennessey, along with Jack Kelley, presented Sue Gieras, Ed’s wife, his No. 33 road jersey in all royal blue with white trim and number that will be placed in the trophy case in the field house lobby signifying Ed Gieras as the only DHS boys’ scorer to reach 1000 points…Sue Gieras also tossed up the ceremonial first jump ball.