BEVERLY — Things couldn’t have gone much worse for the Beverly High boys basketball team in the first half last night.
Smothered by Salem’s zone defense while lacking any defensive answers their own, the Panthers faced a 20-point deficit after 16 minutes of action. If ever Beverly head coach Scott Lewis needed a special speech, this was the night.
“There really wasn’t much to say,” Lewis said. “We were kind of all just disgusted, including the coaches. All I said was that we had to get it possession by possession and get it back to 10 by the end of the third. It was a huge crowd and all it takes is a couple threes or a dunk to get the crowd into it.
“It was a momentum swing in our favor — and Salem couldn’t get it back.”
Beverly dug in on defense and senior forward Nick Cross took care of the threes and the dunk. Cross caught fire, hitting shots from all over the court, and led Beverly to a memorable 62-56 comeback win over Salem.
Cross scored 23 of his game-high 26 points in the second half, including 16 in the third quarter when Salem’s lead shrunk from 39-19 to 46-43.
“That was a special half for him. I certainly would have liked to be a spectator watching that rather than the opposing coach,” Salem (11-3) coach Tom Doyle said. “He hit some really tough shots with guys hanging all over him.”
Cross struggled with his shot in the first half, but he kicked off the second half by drilling back-to-back 3-pointers. By the time he connected on his third three of the quarter, Salem’s lead was down to 12 and Cross’ confidence was swelling.
He added two free throws, a soft pull-up jumper and another three before the quarter was over. Beverly (10-7) made it a one-possession game heading into the fourth when John Berchoff saved the ball under the basket to Zach Duguid, who laid it in as time expired.