SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 27, 2013

A YEAR TO CELEBRATE Titles came in bunches in 2013 across the North Shore sporting landscape

By Gianna Addario
Staff Writer

---- — Team celebrations were a common trend across the North Shore over the past 12 months. Four of our local teams won state championships, while several others took home North sectional titles.

These headlines were splashed across our sports pages over the last year, from Danvers High boys basketball winning its second consecutive state title in March to, most recently, the unbeaten Bishop Fenwick football team hoisting the Division 5 state hardware on the turf at Gillette Stadium.

Perhaps the most talked about story in Massachusetts high school sports was the state’s new football playoff system, which had many more playoff teams than in years past, up to four rounds of playoffs and ultimately crowned six champions from across the Commonwealth. Eight teams in the Salem News readership area made it into the postseason under the new format, while Fenwick was the first team in our coverage area to win a Super Bowl with the new system.

Here’s a look back, in chronological order, at the Top 10 North Shore sports events from 2013:

Danvers boys basketball team wins second consecutive state title: From winning its first state title the previous season to becoming the first basketball team in The Salem News coverage area to win back-to-back championships, the Falcons were the team to beat in Division 3. They capped off their 2012-13 campaign with 66-50 victory over Smith Academy at the DCU Center in Worcester, once again hoisting the state championship trophy high about their heads.

Danvers (24-2) also set a new school record for most wins in a single tournament season with six, topping last year’s total of five. The Falcons got huge contributions from its four senior captains — Nick McKenna, Eric Martin, Nick Bates and Dan Connors — along with sophomore Vinny Clifford. Their tournament run was nothing short of perfection, made even sweeter after taking down Smith in the title clincher.

Swampscott hockey wins first ever North title and a trip to TD Garden for the state final: With just 6.2 seconds left in regulation, junior winger Nunzio Morretti netted the game-winning goal to give Swamspcott a 3-2 victory over Bedford and the program’s first Division 3 North title. Down 2-1, the Big Blue rallied to score two goals in the final 2:13. Senior Chris Carmen evened things up before Moretti’s go-ahead goal late in the third period.

Swampscott went on to score a huge win in the state semifinals over Medway, with freshman Noah Maercklein winning it in overtime, and made it all the way to the Division 3 state championship at TD Garden for the first time ever, falling to Westfield, 4-1.

The bigger victory, however, was about putting Swampscott hockey on the map. Prior to 2012-13 season the Swampscott High hockey team had gone 44 years without winning a playoff game before crushing St. Joseph’s Prep in the first round. The Big Blue then stunned arch rival (and heavily favored) Marblehead, 4-1, in the Division 3 North semifinals before beating Bedford, then Medway, to earn themselves a date in the state final.

Marblehead’s Shalane Flanagan finishes fourth in her inaugural Boston Marathon: Flanagan dreamed of winning the Boston Marathon since she was a little girl growing up in Marblehead. Though the 31-year-old didn’t quite get the fairy tale ending she was hoping for, Flanagan crossed the finished line on Boylston Street in fourth place in the Women’s Elite race with a time of 2:27:08 in the 117th Boston Marathon.

Running just her fourth career marathon, Flanagan maintained a steady pace throughout and stayed with the large pack of female leaders behind then front-runner Ana Dulce Felix of Portugal and eventual winner Rita Jeptoo of Kenya.

Most of us remember the tragic events that transpired hours after Flanagan crossed the finish line as two bombs exploded near the end of the 26.2 mile course. Flanagan later Tweeted that she was all right, posting, “My family and I are safe. Thank you for your concerns. Devastating.”

St. John’s Prep baseball coach Pat Yanchus steps down, but not before leading Eagles to 22 straight wins: After 33 years of coaching at St. John’s Prep, which included 491 wins on the diamond, the legendary Yanchus bid farewell to the game.

Over the years his teams made 10 Division 1 North final appearances and captured sectional championships in 1989,1999, 2000, 2002, 2006 and 2010. St. John’s won back-to-back state titles in 1999 and 2000, amassing a state record 15-game postseason winning streak in the process.

Yanchus’ final season this past spring was pretty spectacular as well, as the Eagles set a program record for both wins in a season (22-2) and for a single-season winning streak at 22. The Prep made it to the North finals before being upset by Billerica.

Hamilton’s Michael Carter-Williams is drafted in the first round by Philadelphia 76ers: Carter-Williams was selected as the 11th overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft after a standout sophomore season at Syracuse, where he led the Orange to the Final Four and averaged 11.9 points, 7.3 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game.

Just the fourth North Shore player drafted by an NBA club, Carter-Williams has already made an immediate impact on a young 76ers squad; he’s the team’s second leading scorer (11.7 ppg) and leads the 76ers in assists (7.3 apg. and steals (3.13). The rookie point guard was named the NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for October and November.

In his NBA debut against the two-time defending champion Miami Heat, Carter-Williams had 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals. Carter-Williams has scored 20-plus points five times this season and has recorded five double-doubles.

St. John’s Prep football standout Johnny Thomas suffers season ending injury: It was a wild year for the Eagles’ franchise running back. Back in May the then-junior verbally committed to play Division 1 college ball at the University of Maryland. But in late September, Thomas tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his right knee. He was injured after an 8-yard run in the third quarter of the Prep’s 35-14 loss to Everett.

In the three-and-a-half games played, Thomas recorded 766 rushing yards and eight total touchdowns. The 2012 Salem News Player of the Year will graduate with 3,709 rushing yards and 42 total TDs in 2 1/2 seasons at. John’s.

Less than a month after his season-ending injury, Thomas — widely regarded as the state’s best player — decided against Maryland and told Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien, a former St. John’s Prep player (Class of ‘88), that he would accept the Nittany Lions’ scholarship offer instead, citing it was always where he wanted to go.

Masconomet boys soccer wins first Division 2 state title since 1996: After falling to Ludlow in the Division 1 state final two years ago, the then-sophomores for Masconomet felt they had something to prove. So this time around, Chieftain senior captains Adam Grammer and Jeff Panella made sure that their club would once again have a shot at a championship trophy — and this time, they’d win it.

Behind five Div. 2 state tournament wins, the Chieftains hoisted the hardware after trumping Walpole in the title game, 4-2. Masconomet was a clear front runner in the playoffs after a near-perfect regular season, sweeping their Cape Ann League slate and losing only to Division 1 powerhouse Somerville. They finished with 17 shutouts, including a 3-0 victory over Danvers in the Div. 2 North quarterfinals. Under head coach Dave Mitchell, Masconomet also earned its third consecutive CAL title.

Danvers’ Meghan Duggan chosen as captain for USA Women’s National hockey team: Gearing up for her second Olympic Games this coming February, Duggan was named captain of the United States Women’s National Team in preparation for the February Games in Sochi, Russia. The 26-year-old power forward will serve in the role for the duration of USA Hockey’s ‘Bring On The World Tour’ leading up to the Games.

The 5-foot-9 Duggan, who helped Team USA to a silver medal at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, helped her Boston Blades win the Canadian Women’s Hockey League title earlier this season, has a resume that includes four IIHF World Championships and three NCAA national titles at the University of Wisconsin. In 91 games wearing the Team USA colors over the last seven years, Duggan has recorded 35 goals and 24 assists for 59 points.

Now four years older and wiser, Duggan has a chance to finish what she set out to do in 2010: take home a gold medal.

Hamilton-Wenham girls cross country wins Division 2 All-State crown: The Generals ran away with its first state championship banner since 2008 this fall after four of their runners places in the top 30 of a field of 180 runners. The Generals earned 56 team points to grab the state crown; their closest foes were Cape Ann League rival Manchester Essex (115 points)

Sophomore Jeanine Zheng was seventh overall in 17:18. Freshman Olivia Horgan was 16th overall in 18:00, followed by senior Emily Horgan (27th, 18:15) and freshman Amanda Burnett (30th, 18:25). Sophomore Megan Stone ran 18:33 to wrap up the championship for Steve Sawyer’s Generals. It was the fourth All-State crown for Hamilton-Wenham (joining 1999, 200 and 2008), which has also won eight of the last nine divisional titles.

Bishop Fenwick football takes home Super Bowl trophy, caps off undefeated season: The Crusaders completed a perfect season by topping Northbridge, 28-0, in the Division 5 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium in Foxboro. Fenwick completed a perfect 13-0 season, claiming the program’s third Super Bowl championship (the others came in 1999 and 2000).

These Crusaders will go down as the best team in school history. Senior quarterback and Salem News Player of the Year Nick Bona shined in his many roles on the field, while powerhouse running back Rufus Rushins, a junior, scored three touchdowns and rushed 158 yards in the victory. Fenwick finished the season with a school record 510 points scored.