By Hayden Bird
BOSTON, MA – The Danvers Falcons defeated the Wareham 68-45 in front of a large and lively crowd at the TD Garden earlier today to earn a trip to the Division III MIAA Basketball State Finals.
Shortly following the 4:15 tip-off, the course of the game became clear. Though they couldn’t boast an undefeated record like their Wareham counterparts, Danvers quickly asserted themselves as the more threatening of the two sides.
Utilizing a slew of scorers, including lengthy senior George Merry, Danvers took an 8-8 tie, and ripped off a 13-1 run, culminating in a 21-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw a distinct drop-off in offense, as both teams reignited their defenses but couldn’t avoid mistakes on offense. Wareham took the respite in Danvers scoring to chip away at their deficit.
Behind perimeter shooting from senior Aaron Baptiste and a perfect free throw ratio from junior Jeff Houde, the Vikings chopped Danvers’ lead to eight, trailing 30-22 at halftime.
And it was the beginning of the second half that saw a brief glimmer of hope for the hitherto undefeated Wareham Vikings.
Engineered largely from guard Darien Fernandez, Wareham remarkably tied the game at 30 before taking a short-lived lead, 32-30.
“We had to weather the storm,” noted Danvers head coach John Walsh. “One more hoop (by Wareham) and we would have had to call timeout.”
Yet, Danvers finally found their shooting touch in the third quarter and began a run that would eventually put the game away. Three unanswered three pointers from juniors Nick Bates and Nick McKenna emphatically handed Danvers a 39-32 lead in the game once again.
The Falcons would not relinquish their advantage again.
In fact, what started as a promising third quarter turned into a nightmare for Wareham. Danvers closed out the quarter on an incredible 24-4 run, with their offensive dominance interrupted only by four points from Fernandez.
By the start of the fourth quarter, the game was a lopsided 54-36 in Danvers’ favor.
For Walsh, the crucial part of their success started defensively. Danvers accomplished this by focusing in on one of Wareham’s strength’s.
“I thought we did a pretty good job of defending the perimeter” said Walsh.
“They like to shoot the three ball” Walsh asserted. “We knew that if we could limit that, I don’t know if they could make enough twos to get up into the seventies where they like to be.”
In the end, too many turnovers and missed rebounds were the backbreaker for Wareham and their undefeated run. Despite a resurgent fourth quarter, the disastrous third quarter proved too big a hurdle. That, and Danvers’ energetic defense.
“I was pretty happy with the way the kids played” declared a relaxed Walsh after the game. “It’s really exciting.”
Danvers now moves onto the Division III final next Saturday (March 17th) at 12:30pm. They will play the winner of Tuesday’s other semifinal between Whitinsville Christian and St. Joseph’s.