LOWELL — Four years ago, when John Walsh first took over as the head basketball coach at Danvers High, nobody could have predicted the amount of success the program would soon have.
The type of coach that rarely calls offensive timeouts, Walsh puts more emphasis on his team’s defense and being able to break down the opponent’s game plan. So after it took five seconds for New Mission to hit a basket during Saturday’s Division 2 North final, Walsh let his team play out the first quarter before switching up his defense from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone.
The move worked for a half. Senior captain Kieran Beck gave Danvers its first lead of the game with 1:41 left until intermission on a left-handed layup. The Falcons held New Mission to just five points in the second quarter and took a 25-23 lead into halftime.
But New Mission was adjusted defensively as well. After averaging 61 points-per-game in its first three playoff contests, the Falcons were held to just 50 by New Mission Saturday, including just seven points in the third quarter.
“We knew defensively we were OK. They scored 61 points and (some) were from foul shots at the end,” noted Walsh. “It was the offensive part that we had to try and come up with something and get to the ball better to try to score. That was the problem.”
Under Walsh, the Falcons are now 16-2 in the postseason. Danvers had only seven tournament victories in more than 50 years from 1955 until Walsh arrived in 2009.
Despite being down at the half, New Mission coach Cory McCarthy loved his team’s chances going into the locker room — and it showed when they took the court in the third.
“I thought we (had) Danvers right where we wanted them (at the half),” explained McCarthy. “We thought they were a little bit tired and we tried to step up the tempo in the second half. We were able to get (the shots) we wanted.