New Mission (21-2) goes about nine deep with several players capable of having big games any given day.
The Titans may not be able to match the height of Danvers’ 6-foot-9 junior center Peter Merry, but they might have the muscle underneath to keep Merry and junior forward Devan Harris in check.
New Mission’s Fred “Bam” Rivers is a powerful 6-4 forward who can hold his own in the paint. The Titans also play tough pressure defense with a lot of athletes on the perimeter.
Asante Sandiford is a talented player who earned a full scholarship to Division 2 Franklin Pierce, while Shaquan Murray, Kordell Harris and Randy Glenn are also players Walsh is concerned about.
Rivers also scored his 1,000th career point in the win over Classical.
A major key for Danvers will be finding a way to set the pace. The Falcons like to hold teams under 50 points, and Burlington and Tewksbury did a decent job slowing the game down in New Mission’s other tournament wins this postseason. New Mission only beat Burlington 48-35 in the first round, and pulled away from Tewksbury for a 65-52 win in the quarters.
It’s not like they’re a Cinderella story this postseason, but the Falcons have surprised some people with their performance. Almost all of their experience from last year — except for senior Kieran Beck — is gone. Danvers had nine seniors a year ago and returning starter Vinny Clifford missed this season with a torn ACL. The Falcons (20-2) have won battles over Marblehead (67-49), North Andover (56-45) and Belmont (62-59) to reach the North final.
Harris, who is averaging 23.3 points and 16.7 rebounds per game in the postseason, has been a beast for Danvers inside, and Merry’s presence in front of the rim often prevents teams from having success attacking the basket.
This year’s seniors — Beck and point guard Mark McCarthy — have also had excellent years. Beck is a wing player who has developed into a defensive stopper. His size and athleticism allows him to defend virtually any position on the floor, and he provides some scoring punch on offense. McCarthy, meanwhile, is a gritty player who has taken over the point guard position since his cousin, Eric Martin, graduated last year.