Danvers boys basketball coach John Walsh led the Falcons to their first Northeastern Conference title since 1975, but despite being one of the favorites in Division 3 North the second-year coach remains cautious.
The Falcons drew the No. 2 seed will host the winner of No. 7 Pentucket and No. 10 Stoneham next Saturday (7 p.m.).
"I've seen both teams a couple times. Pentucket has a big guy who is about 6-foot-6 (Will Angelini) who is pretty good and they have probably the best shooter I've seen this year in Corey McNamara," Walsh said. "As far as Stoneham, they are the one team I did not want to see. They are extremely tough kids, really well-coached and they've beaten good teams like Wakefield, Melrose and Reading."
Danvers finished 16-4 this year with two one-point losses coming at the hands of Winthrop, a close setback against Marblehead, and a loss in their finale Thursday night against Division 1 Boston Latin.
The Falcons are a favorite because of their balance and defensive ability.
Senior center George Merry is a two-way threat, standing 6-7 with excellent shot-blocking ability and a shot touch on the offensive end. Senior guard Jon Amico and junior guard Eric Martin and tough defensive players, while juniors Nick McKenna and Nick Bates are strong perimeter threats on offense.
Junior forward Danny Connors has also emerged as a solid threat off the bench for Danvers.
Also in Division 3 North, Hamilton-Wenham is on the same side of the bracket as the Falcons. The Generals captured the Cape Ann League Division 2 title for the third consecutive year after a 12-6 season. The sixth-seeded Generals will host No. 11 Shawsheen (10-10) on Tuesday (7 p.m.) with the winner advancing to play No. 3 Wayland.
Four local teams qualified in Division 2 North, highlighted by Masconomet earning the No. 6 seed and playing No. 11 Lynn Classical at home on Tuesday (7 p.m.).
The Rams will have to deal with Chieftains' guards Adam Bramanti and Alex Brown. Bramanti, who is headed to Stonehill College to play next year, became the first boys player in school history to hit 1,000 points this season.
"Adam's been very steady all year, but he can't do it alone," Masco (14-6) coach Frank Shea said. "The good thing about us is that we've had different guys step up at different times. I think that will be a key. We can't expect Adam to win the game for us; he's going to need some help. When we do that we're tough to beat."
Senior forwards Ben Panunzio and Kurt Hunziker are two candidates to take some of the slack from Bramanti and Brown.
Marblehead made a late-season run to qualify in Division 2 and the 10-10 Magicians drew the No. 15 seed and host 7-13 Tewksbury on Monday (7 p.m.).
Also in Division 2, Beverly finished 13-7 with a share of the NEC North title this year and the Panthers will play at No. 8 Chelsea, a team they beat earlier this season in their Christmas tournament.
"We beat them by four or five, but it was a close, tight game. They're athletic and quick and similar to some teams in our conference," said Lewis, whose team will take the floor on Wednesday. "Zach Zigelbaum had his high-scoring game against them with 22 or 23. They don't have a lot of size, so with him on the inside and Chris Keaton and Cam Rogers on the outside, hopefully we'll be okay."
Salem struggled a little bit down the stretch and will host Malden Catholic from the Catholic Conference in a Div. 2 preliminary game on Monday. Salem, the No. 16 seed, finished 10-10, while No. 17 Malden Catholic ended up 9-11.
St. John's Prep will play Lawrence in what is a rematch of last year's Division 1 North final. St. John's heads into the game as the No. 10 seed with a 13-7 record, while Lawrence is No. 7 at 14-5.
Peabody, which qualified for the Div. 1 North tournament for the first time since 2007, plays at Medford. The Tanners and Medford each finished 10-10 with Medford winning a coin flip for the No. 16 seed and the home game. Peabody is seeded No. 17.
North Shore Tech is the only local entry in Division 4 North. The Bulldogs finished just 6-14, but earned a postseason spot by placing second in the Commonwealth Small division.
North Shore is the No. 10 seed and will play at Lynnfield on Thursday (7 p.m.).
BOYS BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT SCHEDULE
Division 1 — Peabody at Medford, 7 p.m.
Division 2 — Malden Catholic at Salem, 7 p.m.; Tewksbury at Marblehead, 7 p.m.
Division 1 — St. John's Prep at Lawrence, 7 p.m.
Division 2 — Lynn Classical at Masconomet, 7 p.m.
Division 3 — Shawsheen at Hamilton-Wenham, 7 p.m.
Division 2 — Beverly at Chelsea, 7 p.m.
Division 4 — North Shore Tech at Lynnfield, 7 p.m.
Division 3 — Pentucket/Stoneham winner at Danvers, 7 p.m.