By Jean DePlacido
---- — DANVERS — After a disappointing season a year ago, the Danvers High girls basketball team set a goal to get back to the state tournament this winter.
Consider that goal accomplished. A 46-26 win over Swampscott was the 10th victory of the season for the Falcons, earning them a spot in the upcoming Division 2 North playoffs.
“I thought our girls made a statement in the first five minutes of the third quarter,” said Falcons (10-6) head coach Pat Veilleux. “Getting our 10th win is big, especially after last season (5-15). We definitely have some things to work on, but I also saw some good things out there.”
A scrappy Swampscott (6-9) team was playing without its leading scorer, Ari Talkov, who is out with an ankle injury. She has missed her team’s last four games.
The game was tied at 10 all after the first quarter, but the Falcons started to pull away in the second after a 9-0 run to take a 21-12 lead at the half. Freshman Devin Walsh led the way with six of her 12 points during that run, and Falcons’ defense allowed only two points in that eight-minute span.
Three times during the game, Swampscott failed to get a shot off before the 30-second clock expired because of Danvers’ smothering defense.
“We never do anything the easy way,” said Veilleux. “Talkov is one of the best players in our league, and it’s tough for them to be without her. Give Swampscott all the credit for playing hard all the way. They made us work for it. I’ve always loved the way Alexa Goldman plays; she’s their sparkplug.”
Danvers was able to open up a big lead in the third quarter, scoring a dozen unanswered points led by Kasey Sherry (13 points). A Walsh layup gave the hosts a 34-14 lead.
Emily McNulty also finished in double figures for the Falcons with 10 points. Hannah Llewellyn led the team in rebounds with six and Ashley Arnoldy had five. Delaney Zecha and Sherry had two steals apiece.
The Big Blue made a run late in the third quarter to cut the lead to 13 after Rachel Moran hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer. They cut it to 10 at the start of the fourth after a basket by Anna Greene and foul shot by Olivia Cook, but couldn’t get any closer.
“Our defense did a good job, but we can’t get the ball in the net,” said Swampscott coach Abrom Roberts. “Goldman gives it everything she’s got all the time, but it’s hard on her because she’s the only captain out there now. She feels it’s all on her now to carry the team. We’ve got to get the concept across about moving the ball around more to find the open person.”