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Jake Cawlina and a swarming defense lead defending state champion Danvers back to Garden

Wareham’s Darien Fernandez tries to block the shot of Martha’s Vineyard’s Navardo Anderson, who had 11 points.
Wareham’s Darien Fernandez tries to block the shot of Martha’s Vineyard’s Navardo Anderson, who had 11 points.Credit: robert e. klein for the boston globe

As defending Division 3 state champions, Danvers knows its title defense is going to be far from easy.

All of the Falcons’ hard work this season could’ve been gone in the blink of an eye as they found themselves deadlocked at 52 with 1:30 left to play in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s North sectional title game against Wayland. Nevertheless, because of its experience and tough defense, Danvers escaped with a 57-52 victory.

The Warriors had a chance to take the lead late in the fourth but weren’t able to capitalize and it cost them, as guard Jake Cawlina (9 points) nailed a 3-pointer to put Danvers ahead, 55-52. On the ensuing possession Danvers swarmed Wayland and came up with a crucial takeaway that led to a layup by Nicholas Bates, who led the Falcons with 13 points.

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“Our main idea on defense was to pressure and get the ball out of [Jaleel Bell’s] hands,” said Danvers senior Eric Martin, who scored 7 points. “Fortunately we got the ball out of his hands. and they threw it. People started stepping in the passing lanes and we started getting turnovers.”

Bell, the Dual County League (Small) MVP, was coming off a 34-point performance in Wayland’s semifinal win over North Reading, but finished with 17 points against the Falcons. Danvers continuously changed its defensive sets from man to zone, which helped contain Bell.

Held to 4 points in the first half, Bell erupted for 11 of Wayland’s 21 third-quarter points to keep the game close.

“We’ve been a second-half team, but against a team like Danvers, that is that skilled and talented, we need to play better in the first half,” said Wayland coach Dennis Doherty. “Going down 10 to them and coming back was a very difficult task for us.’’“Four for 14 [on free throws] isn’t going to get it done in games like this. Games always come down to fundamentals. and we know that. Free throws didn’t fall and it hurt us.”

Martha’s Vineyard 77, Wareham 71 — When it was time to do or die at UMass-Boston’s Clark Athletic Center, Navardo Anderson chose the former.

The Martha’s Vineyard senior forward netted 10 of his 11 points in the fourth quarter to help lift the Vineyarders to a 77-71 victory over Wareham in the Division 3 South sectional final Saturday afternoon.

The victory sends Martha’s Vineyard (18-5) to TD Garden against defending state champion Danvers for the EMass title on Tuesday for the first time since 1977, coach Michael Joyce said.

“I just wanted to win,” said Anderson. “That’s it.”

The score was tied, 69-69, with 2:45 to play, but Anderson helped create some room between the teams.

His second dunk of the game brought the Vineyard fan section — which included three school buses of students — to its feet and put his team up, 73-69, with less than a minute to play.

Anderson then went 4 for 4 from the charity stripe to cement the victory.

It was the most recent leap in Anderson’s development; he did not play organized basketball until his junior season.

“He came into his own in that second half,’’ Joyce said. “Once the play got flowing a little bit, he made those free throws in the fourth quarter that were just huge for us. For him to be in this venue and to come through like that, it’s pretty impressive. He’s been just such a diamond in the rough all year.”

Vineyard controlled the pace and scoreboard for much of the game, taking a 43-36 lead into the half. But Wareham (22-2) made it close in the third.

Vineyard senior Izak Stone, who scored a team-high 17 points and hit three 3-pointers, was called for a technical foul late in the third quarter. Wareham senior Anthony Abbott’s tight and pushy defense had started to irritate irritated the 6-foot-5-inch forward.

The ensuing pair of free throws from Wareham senior guard Darien Fernandez hit two free throws to give the Vikings momentum heading into the final quarter, trailing, 60-58.

Fernandez scored 23 points and classmate Sam Brogioli, the son of coach Kevin Brogioli, chipped in a career-high 21 on seven 3-pointers.

It just wasn’t enough to extend Wareham’s 22-game winning streak.

“You run off 22 in a row and then it comes to a grinding halt,” Kevin Brogioli said. “We showed some character coming back a couple times. We just didn’t finish it the way we normally do, and a couple loose balls, they got translated to dunks, and those were backbreakers.”

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