By Dan Harrison
---- — DANVERS — Without Nick McKenna in the lineup, the Danvers boys basketball team knew its offense would look a little different against Salem visiting last night.
So the Falcons did everything they could to take the Witches out of their offensive game and pulled out an impressive 66-42 win that head coach John Walsh seemed especially pleased with.
“(The game plan was) to hold them (Salem) in the 40s,” said Walsh. “We knew if we could do that we could have a chance. We knew Nick McKenna wasn’t playing because he was sick so we were going to struggle offensively. The kids stepped up big time. Not many kids play a lot of minutes so we asked them to do a lot and they came through. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Normally the Witches play fast and shoot in bulk numbers. Last night, Salem (5-3) hit only one jump shot in the first half and it was a turn-around fade away from Christian Dunston that hit off glass before dropping through the net.
Eric Martin (14 points) had five first half steals for Danvers (8-0) and Nick Bates (12 rebounds), Dan Connors (15 rebounds) and Kieran Beck (nine rebounds) limited Salem’s second chance opportunities as the Falcons led 32-18 at the half. Sophomore Vinny Clifford scored all of his eight points before the break.
“They (Danvers) certainly dictated the tempo on both sides of the court and that was something obviously we were trying to do,” explained Salem coach Tom Doyle. “They threw a couple different defenses at us and that caused us to have some trouble. We were always at a distance but our kids never quit and played hard until the end. I’m proud of them.”
The Danvers defenders closed out on the Salem three-point shooters and, outside of some lay ups by Emilio Beato (nine points), limited the damage of Dunston and Marvin Baez’ dribble-drive game.
Bates, Beck, Connors and Clifford are all tall kids with wide wingspans and that length made it all the much tougher on the Salem shooters.
“I think our length on the wings bothered them a little bit,” admitted Walsh.
Salem meanwhile had no answer for Bates especially in the second half.
After some early struggles at the free throw line, Bates found his rhythm at the charity stripe in the first half. He took over in the second half with 13 of his 20 points. Between Bates and the inside presence of Dan Connors (11 points) and his eight offensive boards, the Falcon lead never dipped below 11 points.
“He (Bates) is amazing. He’s a beast. I’m always all over him (about rebounding) but I have to give him credit he rebounds above the rim. Then he started showing you how he can score at the end of the game,” Walsh explained before switching gears to talk about Connors. “He was great down low for us and when things got a little bit stale we started to going to him and it worked.”
Dunston picked up his fourth foul before halftime but that didn’t stop Doyle from keeping him on the floor in the second half. Dunston (18 points) did what he could hitting three contested jumpers from long range however Danvers was able to keep Baez scoreless over the final two quarters while Bates and Connors went to work.
“It’s a tough match-up. They (Danvers) are a very good basketball team and they certainly played well tonight. They create match up problems for us and we tried to off set them and go with different looks,” said Doyle. “But you shut down one and they’ve got another weapon and they did a great job of maximizing that tonight.”
David Kazadi and Davonte Holloway did give Salem a lift off the bench with high energy, rebounding and a few blocked shots. It gave the Witches a nice inside presence however Kazadi fouled out early in the third quarter and Danvers was able to limit Holloway’s slashing abilities.