(Byfield) Another convincing win for Danvers as they defeat Whittier, 69-51, in the Division 3 North semifinals at Triton on Tuesday night.
The Falcons will face the winner of the Wayland/North Reading game at the Tsongas Center on Saturday for the D3 North championship.
Last year in the North semifinals, the Falcons rallied from a ten-point deficit in the final 1:28 to shock Wayland. That would surely be an interesting rematch in the North finals this time around.
Danvers (21-3) led from wire-to-wire against Whittier (20-3). Their attack was well-organized and productive.
The Falcons took on the outside what the Wildcat defense gave them and it was plenty.
When the Wildcats tried to protect the inside from the penetrating attempts of Eric Martin, choice outside goodies turned up for Nick Bates, Nick McKenna, and Vinny Clifford.
When the fifth starter (Dan Connors) had solo coverage near the hoop the Falcons would find him.
With good-look outside shots appearing regularly, Danvers was able to put together consecutive runs of points in each of the first three quarters. The trio of runs doomed Whittier.
Whittier was two dimensional (Ryan Grant and Justin Reyes) and despite getting forty-two points between them, they were mostly of the highly-contested, low-percentage variety. Thus the Wildcats could never put more than two baskets together in a row while the outcome was still in question.
The first Danvers’ run (five points) came right away – Danny Connors putback of a rebound and a Nick Bates three. This segment put the Falcons in front, 5-0.
The Danvers lead after a quarter was 15-11.
The Wildcats were only down four (19-15) after a Ryan Grant (20 points) layup. Then the second Falcon run (eleven points) happened. Vinny Clifford (14 points) started it with a jump shot. Nick Bates (19 points) added a three (his second) before Nick McKenna (17 points) made a jumper in the lane and two free throws. The last two points were by Nick Bates on an assisted layup from Eric Martin.
This run sent Whittier to a fifteen-point deficit (30-15) with 1:47 left in the second quarter. The Wildcats closed to nine (33-24) as Justin Reyes (22 points) nailed a buzzer-beater off the backboard to end the first half.
Whittier started the second half with a Justin Reyes free throw but then came Falcon Run #3 (fourteen points) and this one took the outcome mystery out of this game.
Remarkably, four different Danvers’ players (Vinny Clifford, Nick McKenna, Nick Bates, and Danny Connors) hit three’s in this segment. Danny’s was an old-fashioned three and he followed those points with a layup.
The four 3-point baskets were all assisted – three by Eric Martin and one by Nick Bates. It was terrific basketball to watch………..if you were wearing Danvers blue.
Those 2 ½ minutes of pure Danvers offense elevated their spread to twenty-two (47-25) with thirteen minutes of basketball left. The Wildcats would “win” the rest of the game, 26-22, but the cows had left the barn.
Clearly there was a contrasting style of play between the teams. Whittier was all about Justin Reyes or Ryan Grant (20 points) creating openings for themselves. Justin’s quickness and Ryan’s dribbling enabled them to do just that on occasion. Most of the Whittier turnovers (they had eighteen by my count) came from trying to set up teammates.
Danvers, on the other hand, ran organized offense with plenty of passes and movement. Eric Martin had the ball to start almost every possession and his ability to set up teammates was excellent as shown at the start of the second half. Whittier coach Tom Sipsey ran a number of defenders at Eric but with little effect. Danvers had only three turnovers when this game was still competitive.
The Triton gym was packed with plenty of support for both teams. The chanting was above board after the, “You’re all ugly,” attempt was squelched.
Danvers made eight three’s in the game while Whittier had four.
Danvers state-final opponent (St. Joe’s of Pittsfield) from 2012 is still alive in the West.
Justin Reyes and Ryan Grant were co-MVP’s in the Commonwealth Conference this year.
Vinny Clifford had four 3’s in the second half. He had seven 3’s last game against Minutemen in the quarterfinals.
(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)