By Matt Jenkins
---- — DANVERS — Each lopsided victory the Danvers boys basketball team piled up through the early part of its schedule seemed to validate one growing question facing the Falcons: How will they respond when challenged?
Lynn English provided that challenge in the first half last night, and Danvers proved it’s not the type of team that will wilt under pressure.
A dominating third-quarter quickly transformed a tight battle into another blowout, this time with Danvers pulling away from the Bulldogs for a 90-70 victory.
“We just started doing everything right, flashing to the ball like we were supposed to,” senior point guard Eric Martin said after scoring 13 points and handing out nine assists. “Danny Connors was open under the hoop probably five times and we were just getting it down to him and he started finishing his layups. Once we started making the little plays that we didn’t in the first half it just opened up for us.”
Martin was one of five Falcons to finish in double figures, and Connors sparked Danvers’ third-quarter run by scoring 14 of his 20 points in that period.
Danvers (7-0) kept the ball moving against English’s trapping defense and Connors found himself in good position under the hoop.
“We went to Danny and he came through big time,” Danvers coach John Walsh said. “He made some good moves on the offensive end with his back to the hoop. He also got a couple rebound put-backs and he just played really hard.”
Playing hard has been a trademark for Danvers during Walsh’s tenure, and the Falcons played with a renewed sense of focus and urgency after Lynn English used a 10-1 run to cut their lead to four (42-38) heading into halftime.
The Bulldogs actually closed within two points early in the third quarter, but Danvers tightened up defensively and outscored its guests 30-14 in the frame.
“Their execution was outstanding in the second half and that’s why they won the ballgame,” Lynn English (4-4) coach Mike Carr said. “We don’t shoot the ball especially well and they shoot it very well. When possessions are that tight and you can’t knock down shots, that hurts you.”
Nick McKenna hit five threes and led all scorers with 23 points. Nick Bates added 14 points and 13 rebounds, and sophomore Vinny Clifford had a big game with 16 points. Connors also had a double-double, grabbing 10 boards.
Danvers did an excellent job taking care of the ball, which is critical against English’s pressure defense.
“It’s the most important thing because you can’t give them turnovers,” Connors said. “They just feed off momentum and once they get going they’re tough to stop.”
At times, Danvers had a hard time stopping English’s scorers. Junior guard Fred Hogan led the Bulldogs with 21 points, Erick Rosario dropped 15, Johnny Hilaire contributed 12, and Ben Bowden added 11.
The Falcons made all the stops when they needed to, especially when English cut the lead to 11 (77-66) with 3:48 to go, and they had the ability to increase the lead down the stretch.
“They make you play at such a rapid pace,” Walsh said. “We said coming into the game that if it was in the 60s or 70s, we lose. Obviously, it wasn’t our goal to play up in that (scoring) level, but they make you do that. They make you run. For a minute there, I thought they had us. When they cut it to 13 and had a dunk, we were tired. Our kids for the most part, like Eric Martin, they never get tired, but they were tired tonight. Even with a minute left we called a timeout just because I thought Eric was going to pass out.”