By Dan Harrison
---- — MARBLEHEAD — Wayne Hanscom, the Marblehead boys basketball coach, felt the Danvers basketball team was a tough match up for his Magicians after the Falcons opened the season with a 57-31 road win in Marblehead.
When Danvers plays defense like it did last night, the Falcons are a tough match up for anybody.
With four of the top six players returning from last year’s Division 3 state championship team, the Falcons held Marblehead scoreless for a span of nearly eight minutes in the first half to build a 27-12 lead headed into the locker room for halftime.
“We only have one senior. Everyone else is sophomores and juniors, so it’s going to be a challenging year,” said Hanscom. “Our effort was good, they’ve (Danvers) just got a lot of seniors on that team. It’s a tough match up for us. Overall our effort was good. We just got beat by a better team.”
Senior captains Dan Connors, Eric Martin, Nick McKenna and Nick Bates all were valuable pieces in the run to the state championship and now the foursome gives the Falcons valuable experience.
Teams generally struggle to find offensive consistency early in the season and last night was no different for either club. Both teams turned the ball over and missed some easy shots, but Danvers kept the heat on Marblehead with constant ball pressure. After an 11-10 Danvers first quarter, the Magicians didn’t score until the final two minutes of the half.
“We try to pressure the ball and we try to defend pretty hard and things kind of went our way,” said Danvers head coach John Walsh. “That’s the best we’ve defended in a long time.”
McKenna (20 points) showed he’s ready to step into the role of the Falcons go-to scorer. McKenna hit a pair of three-pointers and then got to the paint for a couple of pull-up jumpers for a 14-point, first-half performance.
Bates came alive offensively in the second half and hit a pair of long-range jumpers to finish with 12 points. Sophomore starter Vincent Clifford (12 points), after a rocky first half, went 3-for-3 in from long range after intermission.
“I think both teams wish they played better offensively tonight. It’s the first game of year so it is what it is,” said Walsh. “We’ll try to improve (on offense) but I was really happy with the way we defended.”
Connors and Martin crashed the offensive boards for Danvers in the first half and the 11 second chance opportunities the Falcons had were a big reason the team extended its lead. Martin had four offensive rebounds and four assists in the first half.
“Nothing was going right. I give them (Danvers) a lot of credit. They work the ball around, find the open man and they’ve got some deadly shooters,” said Hanscom. “They started making shots. They weren’t making shots in the first half but they were getting the second shots and that hurt us.”
Matt Millet led Marblehead with 10 points. The junior guard hit some tough, contested shots but he was the only Marblehead player in double digits.