The Falcons, who won the Northeastern Conference title by winning their first 18 games (23 in a row overall), are not in uncharted territory: They lost their last regular season game a year ago before rattling off five straight to earn their first state championship.
The road to a repeat begins at home on Wednesday, when the Falcons will host Greater Lawrence (7 p.m.). Danvers has been a deep, resourceful team this winter led by Nick McKenna (16.6 points per game), forward Dan Connors (13.6 ppg), sophomore Vinny Clifford (11.9 ppg, 45 3-point field goals) and gifted point guard Eric Martin (11.0 ppg).
The Falcons feasted on the NEC, with 15 of their 18 wins coming by 20 points or more and six of those by at least 30 points. Comcast Tournament losses to Brighton and Newton North notwithstanding, Danvers beat Lynn Classical, Lynn English, Beverly and Salem teams that have designs on making runs in Division 2, so they should be battle tested.
Danvers is 7-1 in the postseason under coach John Walsh, who is in his third season.
Looking ahead, Danvers appears to have caught a break with Wayland on the opposite side of the bracket as a No. 4 seed. Wayland and Danvers went down to the wire in last year’s semifinals as the Falcons overcame a late 10-point deficit to win. Local fans wondering how North Reading might stack up with Danvers will have to wait until the Division 3 North finals should both clubs advance.
Hamilton-Wenham will be the first team in action when they visit Newburyport for a D3 first round game on Monday. The Generals (10-8) are seeded No. 11 while the Clippers are seeded sixth with a 13-7 record.
The Cape Ann League rivals split their regular season meetings, with the Generals winning the first game 56-44 and the Clippers emerging with a 51-49 overtime victory the second time around. Sopho-more James Foye is the player to watch for H-W, which is making its fourth consecutive state tournament appearance. He was leading the North Shore in scoring at last check, with 18.9 points per game. Henry Eagar is also scoring at a healthy clip with 12.7 ppg.