D2 EMass Boys: Danvers 51, Bishop Feehan 40

Danvers Forward Devan Harris from ESPN Boston on Vimeo.

BOSTON -- What’s the difference between a great team, and a championship contender?

Essentially, great teams are elite in a certain categories, and dominant in certain situations. But champions are capable of doing whatever it takes to win on a given night.

The Danvers Falcons (26-0) managed to keep their undefeated season alive with a 51-40 win over Bishop Feehan (19-6) in the Division 2 Eastern Mass. Final at TD Garden on Tuesday night.

Although Danvers averaged 70.4 points per game this year -- and won several shootouts throughout a grueling regular season schedule -- they had to buckle down defensively in this contest, as neither team managed to shoot a high percentage from the perimeter.

The Falcons and Shamrocks combined to shoot 2 for 19 from three-point range over the first two quarters. Danvers led 22-13 at halftime.

With Bishop Feehan’s 6-foot-5 center Frank Oftring patrolling the paint on one end, and Peter Merry -- the state’s leading shot blocker -- on the other end, there weren’t many easy paths to the rim either.

Afterwards, Falcons head coach John Walsh said, “[Bishop Feehan] did a great job of taking stuff away from us that we wanted to do. Frank [Oftring] is an outstanding player, and it was tough to get things going down low with everything kind of muddled down there.”

He continued by pointing out his team’s extraordinary defensive effort: “We’re a pretty tough team because we can leave Peter [Merry] in the middle, and even if he doesn’t block shots, he alters them. He keeps people out of the paint, takes away driving lanes, and sometimes kids don’t even think about going at him.”

These two teams met three weeks ago during the Comcast/Arbella Classic, and Danvers hung on for a 60-56 win, but struggled to close out on Feehan’s dangerous shooters.

It was only a matter of time before the Shamrocks started to connect on their long-range attempts, and they opened the second half on an 8-0 run when Oftring and junior David Carchedi hit a couple of deep triples.

Walsh could have panicked, and called a quick timeout, but he decided to let his team play through it. The Falcons responded with a 10-0 run to take a 34-24 lead.

“These kids have been through this stuff before in big games all year,” said Walsh. “So you don’t necessarily have to call a timeout right away. You can wait to get a hoop, and call it on a good note. It’s a dangerous thing to do, but with seniors, I feel like you can do that.”

When the Shamrocks fought back again to make it 40-36 with just under four minutes left to play, Walsh’s seniors responded once again.

Devan Harris spun for a key bucket in the paint, Vinny Clifford finished a drive through contact on a fast break, and sophomore Devonn Allen put the finishing touches on the win with a nifty scoop in the lane to send Danvers to the D2 state title game at Worcester’s DCU Center this Saturday.

Danvers Center Peter Merry from ESPN Boston on Vimeo.

Poised Beyond His Years: While Danvers’ sizeable seniors were impactful as always, the Falcons may not have been ahead in this game if not for the play of their young point guard.

Allen opened the scoring with a pull-up three-pointer from about 30 feet out, which seemed to indicate the confidence that the sophomore is playing with right now.

“I knew it was a big game, and we had a huge crowd. I didn’t come out too nervous,” Allen said afterwards.

When asked about his stellar play on the defensive end, he responded, “We played them before, and they out-rebounded us, hit a lot of threes, and beat us with hustle, so we knew we had to step it up defensively.”

Allen’s active hands created three turnovers in the first half, but he refused to turn the ball over in turn when the Shamrocks turned up their pressure in the second half.

“Coaches were helping me, and telling me to slow down,” Allen recalled. “Throughout the season there’s been a lot of pressure on me. Maybe people underestimate me a little because I’m a sophomore, but either way, I’m kind of used to it by now.”

Danvers Coach John Walsh from ESPN Boston on Vimeo.

Perfection Intact: All year long, Danvers has appeared to be the team to beat in Division 2, and this game only cemented that notion in the mind of Bishop Feehan head coach Matt Freeman.

“They don’t have any glaring weaknesses on that team,” said Freeman. “They’re not 26-0 for nothing. I think we did ourselves very proud in this game, quite frankly. They knew they had been in battle, but when push came to shove, they just had a little more at most of the positions.”

Walsh was relieved to see his seniors counter the Shamrocks’ pushes with some counter-punches of their own, but it felt a bit differently from Feehan’s perspective.

Freeman said, “It seemed like we had a few opportunities to get it to down to four points, or two points, and they’d come back the other way and make a big play. When that happens, it’s demoralizing.”

A slow start may have set the Shamrocks up for disappointment, but there is indeed a reason nobody has handed Danvers a loss this season, as the Falcons always seem to find a way to finish strong in close games.

Danvers 51, Bishop Feehan 40

DN 14 8 15 14 --- 51

BF 8 5 18 9 --- 40

Top Performers:

Danvers – Devan Harris (17 points, 6 rebounds)

Danvers – Peter Merry (7 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 blocks)

Danvers – Devonn Allen (15 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals)

Bishop Feehan – Frank Oftring (8 points, 6 rebounds, 3 blocks)

Bishop Feehan – Nick Botelho (5 points, 9 rebounds, 2 assists)