SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

March 20, 2013

Appreciation: These indeed are the greatest days in Danvers basketball lore

Danvers High sports fans tended to forget how reliably successful the boys’ basketball program had been ‘in the good old days’ because of the team’s mediocrity and misfortunes spanning the last 30 years. That’s a lot of misfortune and mediocrity.

That’s all changed, of course, with the Falcons’ utterly amazing back-to-back Division 3 state championship run that culminated Saturday with a harder-than-it-appears 66-50 victory over Smith Academy of Hatfield (a two-time state champ in its own right) in the Division 3 state title game at Worcester.

Now the Falcon cagers are the gold standard by which all future teams at DHS — and all future hoop teams throughout the North Shore — will be measured.

It has been the perfect storm. The arrival of former Watertown JV coach John Walsh three years ago, combined with an incredible group of athletes who bought into his regimented offense and chest-bumping defense from Day 1 and blossomed into history-making winners of the highest magnitude. The results: 13-10 and a first-time semifinal berth in the North Section tourney in 2010; 21-4, NEC and first state title last winter; 24-2, NEC title,18-0 start and a second state title this past Saturday. That’s 58-16 combined.

Danvers diehards wonder if they’ll ever see the likes again of these young men. It starts with last year’s seniors who helped make state championship No. 1 possible: 6-foot, 8-inch All-Scholastic George Merry, DHS’s version of Kevin Garnett; Joe Amico, the perfect complement to backcourt mate Eric Martin; and reserve Mike Scarfo, without whose final-seconds three-point field goal forced overtime against Wayland a year ago in a second round tourney game, there would not have been a first state title.

Then there was this year’s nucleus, in which the whole clearly exceeded the sum of their individual talents. They were a remarkable group of clutch performers who were determined to prove they could win without the ‘big guy,’ Merry. From Northeastern Conference Small Division MVP Martin, the ultimate point guard at both ends of the floor and Mr. Clutch from the foul line, to prime scorer/go-to-man Nick McKenna, to wingman/rebounder deluxe Nick Bates, to inside two-way force Dan Connors, to sophomore three-point bomber Vinny Clifford, to subs Kieran Beck and Jake Cawlina.

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