DANVERS, Mass. -- Devoid of real depth in the size department, Lynn English looked to push tempo and run at all times Tuesday night. And stocked with multi-sport athletes accustomed to continuous sprints, No. 4 Danvers was more than up for the track meet.
The Falcons took a slim four-point lead into the break, but exploded for 30 points in the third quarter, and outscored the Bulldogs 48-32 in the second half overall to pull away with a nice 90-70 victory in its own field house.
"We went into this game thinking, if it's in the 60's or 70's, we lose," head coach John Walsh said. "Obviously it wasn't our goal to play at that level with that many points scored, but they make you do that. They make you run. For a minute there, I thought they had us."
With that in mind, perhaps just as impressive is the fact that the Falcons (6-0) used just six players on the night. Five of them scored in double-figures, led by seniors Nick McKenna (23 points) and Dan Connors (20 points, eight rebounds). Senior Eric Martin also notched a solid night distributing, finishing with 13 points and eight assists.
Walsh admitted he thought Martin looked tired by the end of the game, even calling a timeout with a minute left worried that his senior point guard "was going to pass out". But in the same thread, Martin's star career on Danvers High's soccer pitch has him conditioned for this type of action.
"I was definitely tired at the end there, but for most of the game I can keep going more than other kids because of soccer," Martin said.
Holding on to a 42-38 halftime lead, the Falcons took command of the game in the third quarter with a 30-point outburst. English forward Ben Bowden picked up his fourth foul early in the quarter, leaving the Bulldogs (4-4) shorthanded underneath the basket. The Falcons took advantage, running a slew of sets through Connors as he repeatedly either found space around the rim for easy bunnies, or simply stretched behind the blocks to either clear the runway for Martin or set up an open three with a screen.
Connors was a perfect 7-for-7 from the field in that quarter, while Danvers was 4-for-5 on three-pointers overall, getting two each from McKenna and Vinny Clifford (16 points).
Danvers led comfortably 72-52 headed into the final frame.
Postal Service: With Bowden on the bench with four fouls, the Falcons exploited the ensuing mismatch down low with Connors in a multitude of ways.
"We just started doing everything right, just flashing the ball like we were supposed to," Martin said. "I think Danny was open five times under the hoop, just getting it down to him, he started finishing his layups. So once we took care of all the little plays that we didn't [do] in the first half, things just opened up for us."
He added later, "We knew if we got him the ball, at least if he didn't score they were going to foul. So we started getting him the ball, and everything else just opened up. We started moving it from inside-out, and everything else started opening up."
One particularly successful method involved cross screens, or screens set with lateral movement to create an opening in the post area. As a cross screen was set underneath the basket for Connors, Martin was usually coming off of a flare screen, or a screen set near the three-point line aimed at releasing the shooter fading to the wing for an isolation play.
"AFter Vinny Clifford sets the initial screen, when he gets to the corner, it's almost like...if you don't switch it, he's going to get an open look in the corner," Walsh said. "Which he did, so he hit a couple of three's. And that makes it so that you have to know where he is at all times. And if not, Danny Connors is coming to the back, almost like a flex cut, but it's set by the point guard and then they have to decide whether to go after Vinny or Danny. It worked out well."
Run, and run some more: To establish their affinity for the uptempo, the Bulldogs came out pressing from the get-go, switching off between man-to-man and 1-2-2 looks -- and still, later some 2-1-2 sprinkled in, which Danvers solved with some movemenet up the sidelines.
To keep pace with it, that requires a certain level of conditioning. Most of the Falcons are multi-sport athletes. Some, such as Martin, are accustomed all of this run-and-gun style from his standout career as a soccer player, having scored more than 100 career goals for the varsity.
"We're blessed with Eric, because he's a soccer player that can legitimately run forever -- I mean, forever," Walsh said. "And our other kids are just used to it. It's a philosophy I've had."
Young, but promising: With just two seniors on the roster, the Bulldogs are a bit green this year. But that isn't to say there isn't talent abound in the program, with players like junior Freddy Hogan (23 points) and sophomore Erick Rosario (10) leading the backcourt.
One in particular to keep track of the next few years might be Johnny Hilaire, a 6-foot-6 sophomore slasher with an above-the-rim style brought on by a fairly impressive vertical leap. Hilaire exploded for eight points in the fourth quarter on a perfect 4-for-4 clip from the field, highlighted by a tomahawk dunk in transition. He finished the night with 12 points overall.
Both Walsh and English coach Mike Carr made a comparison to former ESPN Boston All-Stater Keandre Stanton, who had some low Division 1 interest before settling at Frank Philips Junior College, in Borger, Texas, where he is a freshman.
Said Carr: "He's an athlete, he does a lot of nice things. He's only a sophomore, he just has trouble picking some things up, that's why he's not playing as much. But he will, he's a good kid. It's a great group, they work hard."
Said Walsh: "He's going to be him [Stanton]. It's freaky how quickly he gets off the floor. I don't know he jumps as high as Keandre -- I don't know if I've ever seen anyone in my life jump as high as Keandre ever -- but he's pretty close. And he's only a sophomore, so that team is loaded -- loaded -- for the next couple of years."