BEVERLY — Days before taking the court against Beverly, Danvers boys basketball coach John Walsh predicted his team was in for a battle.
Even though the Falcons came to Henry Cabot Lodge Fieldhouse with an unblemished record and an average win margin of 26 points per game, Walsh felt the Panthers were a tough matchup.
They were, but Danvers survived with a 49-47 victory in a game it led for less than four minutes.
“There was nothing that we were surprised about, but we knew they’d do everything well and right. Scott (Lewis) does a great job,” Walsh said after his team moved to 13-0. “I was happy with the way we overcame some adversity. Late in the game, certain things can rattle a team. Calls don’t go your way, or something like that, but we pulled through.”
The game finished with a little bit of controversy due to an inadvertent whistle. With just over 30 seconds remaining and Danvers hanging on to a 48-47 lead, Nick Bates knocked the ball away from Beverly’s Cam Rogers. Both players chased after and attempted to dive on the loose ball.
Believing Bates had possession, Walsh signaled for a timeout, which drew a whistle. Neither player had gained control of the ball yet, however. Danvers was granted a timeout, but Beverly (10-4) was given the ball because of alternating possession.
Danvers ended up getting a defensive stop, and sophomore Vinny Clifford made one free throw with 8.9 seconds to go to account for the final score.
“It was a crazy end to what was a great high school basketball game,” Lewis said.
Clifford played a huge role in Danvers overtaking the Panthers.
After missing on all four of his three-point attempts in the first half, Clifford hit three triples after the break and scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half.
Clifford’s third three came with 5:17 left and gave Danvers its first lead, 42-40.
He also hit a contested pull-up jumper with 49 seconds left, giving the Falcons a 48-47 lead.
“We lost him in transition twice and he made those two big threes,” Lewis said. “I thought we did a pretty good job on him in the halfcourt sets, but when we missed and they came down, two different times we didn’t find him and those were big hoops for them.”
Danvers, still playing without senior Nick McKenna who is out with mononucleosis, needed someone to fill a scoring role. Bates struggled with his shot, and Beverly did an excellent job collapsing on Dan Connors (10 points) when he caught the ball in the post.
“Those were big shots,” Walsh said. “He’s a sophomore coming up big, stepping into that void where Nick McKenna would get those shots. I was very proud of him.”
Beverly had a great game plan and executed it to near perfection. The Panthers didn’t allow Danvers to get many clean looks at the basket, they hit the offensive glass extremely hard, and they got excellent production from junior point guard Jonangel Franco, who led Beverly with 14 points.
Despite all of that, Lewis and the Panthers had a hard time tasting defeat last night.
“I guess maybe in a couple days when this settles in we can say, ‘Hey, this was great. We played with Danvers, one of the best teams in the state who has beaten everybody by 20 points. We can play with anybody, too,’” Lewis said. “But, on the other hand, we lost the game. That would have been a huge win for us.”