By Matt Jenkins
---- — DANVERS — Vinny Clifford has done it in games before, he does it in practice, and he even proved his ability as a long-range shooter in a three-point competition at the Northeastern Conference boys basketball all-star game recently.
Clifford’s Danvers teammates have seen enough to know there are just times when they have to get him the ball.
One of those moments occurred late in the third quarter of the Falcons’ Division 3 North quarterfinal against Minuteman Saturday. Clifford blasted the Mustangs with a three-point barrage, connecting on five in a span of 2:07 to help Danvers pull away for an 82-41 win.
Danvers, the No. 2 seed, will now play third-seeded Whittier tomorrow night (7 p.m.) at Triton Regional High School in Byfield in the semifinals. After Saturday’s performance, Clifford can expect Whittier’s game plan to center around not letting him get space on the perimeter.
“When Vinny gets going he can knock them down — and he won’t stop,” Danvers (20-2) coach John Walsh said.
Danvers actually struggled to pull away from Minuteman through the first 20 minutes. The Falcons only led 40-27 before Clifford knocked down his first three-pointer of the third. Then, he hit three more. A Kieran Beck layup briefly put Clifford’s streak on hold, but the sophomore guard drilled his fifth of the quarter to push the Falcons’ lead to 28 points (57-29).
Senior guard Nick McKenna added a three of his own before the third quarter horn sounded to push it to 31 (60-29).
“We wanted to run more in the second half and knew if we ran, we could get wide open threes in the corner,” Clifford said. “My teammates did a good job of finding me, so it was more of them just looking to find me.”
Clifford’s teammates know they shouldn’t look away from him when he’s heating up. They watched him go 10 for 10 to win the NEC all-star game three-point competition just before the postseason began.
“That (third quarter) was ridiculous,” McKenna said. “He just gets in those grooves and you gotta keep giving it to him. He doesn’t miss, and it happens a lot. When he gets hot, there’s nothing you can do about it.”
Clifford ended up scoring 17 of his game-high 25 points in the third quarter, and McKenna poured in 21 for Danvers. The backcourt duo combined for 10 three-pointers.
Eric Martin also scored seven points for Danvers and increased his minutes played in his second game back from injury. Nick Bates pulled down 15 rebounds for the Falcons, who started to look like a team playing at full strength after dealing with the injury of Martin and playing without McKenna for several games during the season while he recovered from mononucleosis.
agateHed:Danvers 82, Minuteman 41
agate_boldCentered:Division 3 North quarterfinals
agate_lineQuarters:Minuteman@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Wiederkehr 1-1-3, Akins 6-6-19, Robinson 2-1-7, O’Neil 0-0-0, Rojo 6-0-12. @SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:Totals@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters: 15-8-41@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:.
agate_lineQuarters:Danvers@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Martin 3-0-7, Bates 1-2-4, Connors 2-2-6, McKenna 9-0-21, D’Hemecourt 0-0-0, Cawlina 1-0-3, Woodbury 1-0-2, Eldridge 0-0-0, McCarthy 1-5-7, Beck 1-2-4, Clifford 8-2-25, Merry 0-1-1, Crittendon 1-0-2. @SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:Totals@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters: 28-14-82@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:.
agate_lineQuarters:Halftime@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Danvers, 29-20.
agate_lineQuarters:3-pointers@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: M, Robinson 2, Akins; D, Clifford 7, McKenna 3, Martin, Cawlina.
agate_lineQuarters:Records@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: M, 13-9; D, 20-2.