WORCESTER — The Danvers High assistant basketball coaches were fidgeting nervously a few minutes before tipoff against Smith Academy Saturday in the Division 3 state championship game at the DCU Center.
“Hope it’s not one of those cardiac games,” said volunteer assistant Bob McKenna, alluding to the Falcons’ close wins over Martha’s Vineyard and Wayland earlier in the tournament.
As it turned out, Danvers was proactive in preventing potential heart problems by smothering Smith Academy, 66-50, completing what can now be considered a standard-bearing accomplishment in the history of North Shore basketball.
By winning 11 consecutive postseason games en route to back-to-back state titles, Danvers takes its place alongside Lynn Classical, which also went 11-0 while winning the Division 3 crown in both 1993 and 1994.
Basketball junkies on the North Shore — and there are many of them — can tell you about all the remarkable state championship teams of the past, going back to Ipswich in 1969, when Ruben Britt and Toby Goff led the Tigers to the Class D (small school) title.
Salem High, rich in basketball tradition, won it all in 1990, paced by Rick Brunson, an eventual McDonald’s All-American who played at Temple and then went on to the NBA (he’s currently an assistant coach with the Charlotte Bobcats). The Witches (25-0) won it again five years later with another superstar, Scoonie Penn, who ended up leading Ohio State to the Final Four in 1999 and was drafted by the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks before settling on a productive career in Europe.
More recently, Justin Woodworth was the catalyst for Ipswich when it captured Division 4 in 2005 (unfortunately, Division 4 doesn’t cross over to play Central or Western Mass. teams, so it’s more accurate to call it an Eastern Mass. title). Meanwhile, St. John’s Prep went 25-1 two years ago and took the Division 1 crown; its star player was Pat Connaughton, now a sophomore starter at Notre Dame.