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March 19, 2013

Back-to-back titles put Danvers in elite hoop company

(Continued)

For all of their greatness, none of those teams would ever go on to win a second consecutive state championship.

That exalted status is reserved strictly for the current Danvers team and the Lynn Classical team that dominated in nearly identical fashion two decades ago.

“There are similarities between us,” said Tom Grassa, 61, who’s been the head coach at Classical since 1985. “We were a deep, balanced team just like Danvers was (the last two seasons). Danvers has been just incredible. They’re extremely well-balanced and well-coached. John Walsh came in (as head coach three years ago) and implemented a system, and his players have executed it. He had all the right pieces and made them fit.”

All five Danvers starters — Nick McKenna, Vinny Clifford, Nick Bates, Dan Connors and Eric Martin — were double digit scorers in the state championship contest, and it was poetic justice because that’s how the Falcons were built. Lynn Classical also spread the wealth, said Grassa, even though it had marquee-type players in Calvin Johnson (1,800 career points) and Marcos Echevarria, who was “the heart and soul of our team,” said Grassa.

Lynn Classical compiled an overall record of 45-6 in its back-to-back championship years. Oddly enough, the Danvers Falcons also went 45-6 in their two-year championship span.

Even though it had its “cardiac games” and close calls in the last two state tournaments, especially against Wayland last winter and Martha’s Vineyard earlier this month, Danvers should be remembered as a team that hammered most of its postseason foes. The Falcons won six tourney games this year by an average of 18 points. That’s even more impressive than last year, when they won five games by an average of 14.2 points.

But as easy as the Falcons made it look at times, going the distance is never a cakewalk. Every team in the state recognized Danvers as a contender this season and was hungry to unseat Walsh’s team. The Falcons knew that ahead of time and responded with a killer instinct and an intelligent approach that enabled them to win it a second consecutive time.

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