Scoring the winning basket just before the final buzzer is becoming routine for Lily Montanari. The Danvers High junior forward delivered the decisive basket in the Lady Falcons’ opening night, 52-50 road victory at Lynn English, and she did it again Tuesday night in the DHS field house, lifting her teammates to a 31-29 victory over winless Beverly and keeping her team perfect at 5-0.
With seven seconds remaining in a deadlocked game, Nicole White delivered an accurate long pass from in front of the Danvers bench to Montanari in the low post, who outreached two Beverly defenders for the ball, turned, and laid the ball in. Game time.
That gave the Lady Falcons their second straight nail-biting victory, coming 12 days after their most recent triumph, 59-55, in overtime over Lynn Classical at DHS.
“After scoring the first six points, we played sluggishly for most of the game before making some big plays down the stretch,” Danvers coach Pat Veilleux observed. “We sure looked like a team that hadn’t played a game in 12 days, but the girls hung tough, pecked away at the Beverly lead (that peaked at 14-7) and made the shots and plays in the final minutes that made the difference.”
Danvers played catch-up, after Beverly turned a 0-6 deficit into 10-6 lead midway through the second quarter, until Montanari made one of her patented low post moves to give the Lady Falcons a 28-127 edge with 5:52 remaining in the game. That came right after the home team’s lone three-pointer of the night from backup guard Sarah McCarriston. Remarkably, Danvers survived a 7:25 scoreless drought and a 10:25 span during which they did not hit a field goal, both in the first half.
Fact is both teams shot poorly throughout and committed a batch of turnovers (Danvers led in this category, 23-20), which kept Beverly from getting blown out in the first quarter and allowed Danvers to remain within striking distance in the closing eight minutes.
Keyed by senior guard Natalie Mellinger’s three three-point bombs in the first half, the last of which was easily a 25-footer at the intermission horn, Beverly owned a 17-11 halftime lead.
“We were lucky to be that close at the half,” Veilleux admitted. “But we defended better the second half. Then again, a cold spell in the fourth almost doomed us as well.”
The Lady Falcons went exactly five minutes without a point in the fourth quarter, but Beverly was able to register only two points in that time, so that Sarah Unczur’s free throw with 52 seconds left which knitted the game at 29 was crucial, setting the stage for the White-to-Montanari heroics at the end.
Beverly missed a three-pointer after Unczur’s foul shot, Unczuer missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 23 seconds left, but Julia McNulty grabbed the rebound and Montanari’s game-winner (called by assistant coach Jon Levine) followed after two Veilleux timeouts.
“Beverly outplayed us, really bothered us with their man-to-man defense,” Veilleux, in his 11th year as Danvers girls coach, noted. “So we feel fortunate. Hopefully we learned from this game and will handle the man defense better next time we face it (probably Friday when the Lady Falcons play their second road game at 0-5 Salem). That was the best defense we’ve seen.”
Montanari led the Falcons with 12 points, all but two coming in the second half. White had eight steals and see assists. Melange’s nine points paced the Panthers. Freshman Tia Bernard had eight points and seven rebounds.
The Danvers High boys fell to 0-6 despite a strong effort at Beverly, but playing catchup most of the game was too much to overcome. The Falcons came within five points in the final minutes but Beverly (4-1) made eight straight free throws when they counted most to clinch the win. Justin Roberto led Danvers with 21 points (with three threes) and Tahg Coakley added 11.