DANVERS — Even though the halfway point in the basketball season hasn’t been reached the game between Northeastern Conference rivals Danvers and Beverly had all the feel of a playoff tilt.
The host Falcons got off to a great start, faded in the third quarter because of tremendous defensive pressure by Beverly, but rallied to pull out a 65-52 win and remain unbeaten (8-0).
“Beverly is a really good team, and this one could have gone either way,” said Falcons coach John Walsh. “I am so proud of the kids for never getting down and playing so hard at the end. This is a good win for us. We only have two seniors, Kieran Beck and Mark McCarthy. They both played their hearts out.”
The large crowd was really into the game from the start when the Falcons shot out to a 13 point lead. Beverly roared back and after three quarters had a nine point lead, 46-37. The momentum shifted in the third quarter when Bevelry dominated and scored the first 15 points to take the lead for the first time. Jonathan Berchoff, who led all scorers with 25 points, played a key role with two old fashioned three point plays followed by a driving layup to put the Panthers on top, 32-20.
Beverly used a full court man-to-man press to create havoc and cause the Falcons to turn the ball over. They outscored the Falcons, 24-10 in that eight minute span, but it was a complete reversal in the fourth with Danvers enjoying a huge 28-6 advantage.
“We got off to a terrible start, but made some adjustments at halftime that worked,” said Beverly coach Scott Lewis after his team suffered it’s third loss of the young season (4-3). “We were able to get some defensive pressure and up the tempo to our liking. Basketball is a game of runs; we made a nice one, but they came back in the last quarter with one of their own that we couldn’t answer.
“Danvers is big up front, and we had to go with a bigger lineup than usual because of that.The game got away from us at the end when they made the big shots when they counted. They pounded it in and got to the line.”
Beck led his team back with 13 of his 16 points in the final frame. He hit a three-pointer to open the quarter and cut Beverly’s lead to six. The Falcons went on a 15-0 run led by Devan Harris, who had a team high 22 points, Beck, and McCarthy, who finished with nine points including three treys.
“We had steals and took good shots at the end,” said Beck. “We’re in our house, and we weren’t going to lose. They were not going to come in here and hand us our first loss. We went to the line and made our foul shots (14-18). This year we don’t have any starters back, but there’s a lot of talent on this team.
“Harris transferred in from Hingham and has been huge for us. Peter Merry (12 points) was dominating the glass with 15 rebounds. Everybody is contributing, and it feels great.”
Harris had 11 points in the final quarter, and put his team ahead for good with four minutes left. Rashad Francois hit a bomb, and Beck drove to the hoop for a 55-49 lead with just over two minutes to play. The Panthers were able to cut it to four, but that was as close as they would come.
“We had a lot of trouble with Beverly’s press,” said Walsh. “Our pressure wasn’t great, but it woke us up. Harris was unbelievable. He never played varsity ball before, but he’s lost a lot of weight and is a player.”
Lewis praised Berchoff and Nick Cross (18 points) for outstanding efforts. They combined for 43 points, and Berchoff single handedly brought his team back in the third quarter.
“He had a great game; handles the ball well, rebounds, shoots, and plays strong defense,” said Lewis. “Cross left it all out on the court and played his heart out. This is a good learning experience for our guys because we haven’t played in a lot of big games while Danvers played in state championships.”