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Danvers downs Smith Academy 66-50 to get second straight Division 3 title

Danvers - 2012-13 Division 3 champs

Danvers – 2012-13 Division 3 champs

Mat Sulda, Derek McMahon, Coach Matt Zerneri, Seaver Rickert

Mat Sulda, Derek McMahon, Coach Matt Zerneri, Seaver Rickert

(Worcester) No last-minute heroics needed by Danvers this time.

After coming dangerously close to exiting from the tournament in the D3 North finals (Wayland) and the state semifinals (Martha’s Vineyard), Danvers pulled ahead of Smith Academy by double figures for good early in the final quarter and won the state title, 66-50, on Saturday afternoon at the DCU Center in Worcester.

This was Danvers (24-2) second straight Division 3 title.

(Both teams are the Falcons.)

DHS was hot during the first nine minutes against the SA zone burning the visitors from Hatfield with five three’s (Nick McKenna 3, Nick Bates and Eric Martin 1 each) and getting a 22-6 spread.  Was this going to be a blowout?  Hardly.

You live by the three, you can also die by it.  Danvers cooled off in the second quarter and Smith rattled off thirteen unanswered points.  While Danvers was pointless for nearly seven minutes SA closed to 22-19 before a Nick Bates layup in the last three seconds.

Mat Sulda (11 points) tries to get by Nick McKenna (20 points)

Mat Sulda (11 points) tries to get by Nick McKenna (20 points)

That five-point halftime lead (24-19) would shrink to two (24-22) and even one (26-25) on an old-fashioned three by Seaver Rickert (13 points) just a minute into the second half.

Nick Bates (12 points) responded with an old-fashioned three of his own and Seaver Rickert scored from in close on a pass from Derek McMahon.

At this point Danvers lead was a mere two points (29-27) with 6 ½ minutes to play in the third quarter.  This was when the pull away began for the Eastern Mass champs.

Danvers crafted two minutes of unanswered offense (seven points) getting a jump shot from Nick Bates, a free throw by Danny Connors (12 points), and two jump shots by Nick McKenna (20 points).  Suddenly, Smith Academy was down nine (36-27).

The Western Mass champs would cut the lead to six (38-32) before Vinny Clifford (11 points) struck from the corner on an inbounds play.

Vinny Clifford (11 points) guards David Longstreeth

Vinny Clifford (11 points) guards David Longstreeth

This make was crucial for Danvers because cold Vinny had now become hot Vinny.  The 6-2 sophomore had been through a disastrous first half missing every shot (including several air balls) and had a couple of turnovers.

But now Vinny was hot and he scored the next eleven Danvers points, including eight of them in the first two minutes of the final quarter.

While Vinny was making shots (a jump shot and two 3’s), SA was making only three-of-six free throws.  The result of all this activity was a 50-37 Danvers lead with six minutes to go.

Smith rallied to within ten (58-48) as David Longstreeth connected from long range and Will Halloran put in a layup with 2:19 left.

But Danvers took the “scary” out of the rest of the game by making six straight free throws and getting a Nick McKenna layup off of a steal to notch their second straight championship.

All five of the Danvers starters ended up in double figures.

Eric Martin (11 points) was at his best in the second half when Smith moved to full-court pressure in the second half.  There were very few Danvers turnovers.

Nick McKenna goes baseline

Nick McKenna goes baseline

Nick McKenna’s defense was a key to the win as he guarded Mat Sulda (11 points).  The speedy 5-10 lefty had been averaging 19.3 points per game.

Nick Bates had a double/double getting thirteen rebounds to go along with his twelve points.

This was the first state final for Smith Academy since 1992.

Mat Sulda ended up with 1579 career points.  Both his uncle and his grandfather were 1000-point scorers at Smith.

Danvers returned four starters to this year’s team but graduated was 6-7 George Merry (WPI).  The 2012-13 squad had to adjust significantly.  Gone were George’s interior defense and inside scoring.  But credit Coach John Walsh, the team adjusted well enough to win a second title.

Danvers boxscore

Smith Academy boxscore

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Derek McMahon takes off with a turnover

Derek McMahon takes off with a turnover

loose ball

loose ball

Danny Connors (12 points) and Seaver Rickert (13 points)

Danny Connors (12 points) and Seaver Rickert (13 points)

Mat Sulda skies

Mat Sulda skies

Eric Martin, Danny Connors, Coach John Walsh, Nick McKenna, Nick Bates

Eric Martin, Danny Connors, Coach John Walsh, Nick McKenna, Nick Bates

rebound

rebound

Keith Natale and Nick Bates (12 points)

Keith Natale and Nick Bates (12 points)

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Danvers wins last-minute thriller 57-52 over Wayland to get D3 North title

Danvers celebrates last-minute win over Wayland

Danvers celebrates last-minute win over Wayland

Reserve Jake Cawlina (9 points) saved the day for the Falcons

Reserve Jake Cawlina (9 points) saved the day for the Falcons

(Lowell) If you saw last year’s game between Danvers and Wayland you knew what to expect….end of the game excitement.

The Falcons (22-2) broke free from a tie game in the last minute and defeated the Warriors, 57-52, to win the Division 3 North title at the Tsongas Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Danvers will face Martha’s Vineyard (17-5) in the state D3 semifinal game at the TD Bank Garden on Tuesday.  The finals are at the Worcester Centrum on Saturday.

Last time against Wayland, a 3-point shot by reserve Mike Scarfo was part of a 10-point rally that forced overtime in the Falcon’s 70-67 win.  Today it was seldom-used, senior Jake Cawlina who saved the day for Danvers.

With Dan Connors in game-long foul trouble and Vinny Clifford not as accurate as he has been recently, DHS coach John Walsh gave Jake a chance.  Nine points later Jake made the coach look like a genius.

Jake entered the game in the second quarter and nailed two 3’s as part of a ten-point run that gave Danvers its largest lead of the half, 31-20, with a minute left until halftime.

Jaleel Bell (17 points) with Eric Martin

Jaleel Bell (17 points) with Eric Martin

The Falcon advantage would grow to 35-23 two minutes into the second half but the never-say-die Warriors erased their entire deficit and had Danvers in a 52-52 tie with 1:41 left.

The Falcons extended their next possession with an offensive rebound and Jake Cawlina then hit his third 3-pointer of the game to give the Falcons a 3-point lead (55-52) with fifty-five seconds left.

But Jake was not done contributing.  On Wayland’s next possession, he and reserve Kieran Beck got Yannick Schaefer in a trap and Kieran stole the ball.

Danvers ran clock before Eric Martin fed Nick Bates cutting down the lane for the layup that sealed the deal (57-52) for the Falcons with thirteen seconds left.

Certainly a key to the Danvers win was limiting Jaleel Bell to seventeen points on 8-for-15 shooting.  Eric Martin was the primary defender.

Jaleel had 34 points/14 rebounds/9 steals in the Warriors semifinal win over North Reading.  Jaleel’s line today showed no rebounds or steals.

Nick Bates (13 points) heads for two

Nick Bates (13 points) heads for two

Nick McKenna (14 points) and Nick Bates (13 points) led the Danvers scorers.

Eric Martin had nine points and five assists plus the great defense on Jaleel Bell.

Dan Connors tallied only four points as fouls kept him on the bench more than on the floor.  He had three fouls in the first quarter and sat out the second quarter.  Thirty seconds into the third quarter he had his 4th and was benched.  Four minutes into the final quarter he was done for the game.  Dan’s inside scoring/rebounding were sorely missed.

Harry Leavitt (9 points) drove in for the layup that tied the score at 52-52.

Harry was part of 10-point run by the Warriors (19-5) in the third quarter.  He had a layup and two free throws.  Jaleel Bell, who had eleven points in the third quarter, added two layups and Greg Karpacz also had a layup.  That collection of unanswered points put Wayland within two (35-33) with four minutes left.

Eric Martin was part of quick five points in the first quarter.  He assisted on Nick McKenna’s three and then stole the inbounds pass and tallied a layup.

looking for a rebound

looking for a rebound

Wayland coach Dennis Doherty is probably wondering what this game would have looked like at the end if his team hadn’t missed eleven-of-fifteen free throws including three that were the front ends of one-and-one’s.

Danvers wasn’t too much better from the line.  They missed six-of-nine attempts including one front end of a one-and-one.

The Falcons have eliminated Wayland from the tournament three straight years.

(All of the pictures above and below enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

All eyes on a Vinny Clifford three

All eyes on a Vinny Clifford three

foul-plagued Dan Connors

foul-plagued Dan Connors

Kieran Beck

Kieran Beck

Yannick Schaefer

Yannick Schaefer

holding

holding

Eric Martin in Wayland traffic

Eric Martin in Wayland traffic

loose ball

loose ball

D3 North champs

D3 North champs

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Danvers reaches Division 4 North finals (again) after defeating Whittier 69-51

whda A11 Eric Martin defended by Ryan Grant

Nick Bates (19 points) goes for the block against Justin Reyes (22 points)

Nick Bates (19 points) goes for the block against Justin Reyes (22 points)

Justin Reyes soars for two over Nick McKenna

Justin Reyes soars for two over Nick McKenna

(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.

Danny Connors (13 points) inside for two

Danny Connors (13 points) inside for two

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.

Nick McKenna (13 points) defended by Ryan Grant (20 points)

Nick McKenna (13 points) defended by Ryan Grant (20 points)

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.

Vinny Clifford (14 points) fires a three over Nathan Frongillo

Vinny Clifford (14 points) fires a three over Nathan Frongillo

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.

Eric Martin passes

Eric Martin passes

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.

Danvers Boxscore

Whittier Boxscore

(All of the pictures above and below will enlarge considerably if you click on them.)

Justin Reyes gets inside

Justin Reyes gets inside

Ryan Grant goes baseline

Ryan Grant goes baseline

Ryan Grant, Eric Martin, Danny Connors

Ryan Grant, Eric Martin, Danny Connors

Nick McKenna (13 points)

Nick McKenna (13 points)

Justin Reyes fouls out

Justin Reyes fouls out

Eric Martin defended by Ryan Grant

Eric Martin defended by Ryan Grant

Andrew Wells

Andrew Wells

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