SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Sports

March 10, 2014

Matt Jenkins column: Despite loss, winning and excitement still surround Danvers

LOWELL— Danvers boys basketball coach John Walsh has the unique ability to see the best in every team the Falcons are lined up to play.

In many ways, it’s the secret to his success. Unwilling to open himself up to the possibility of overlooking an opponent, Walsh prepares his team for every game like it’s the biggest, most important contest. Regular season success has followed the Falcons through each of Walsh’s first four years on the job, and the postseason output has been even more impressive.

Eventually, Danvers’ postseason win streak had to end, and a talented New Mission team did the job in the Division 2 North final Saturday afternoon by outlasting the Falcons, 61-50, at the Tsongas Center.

As the Falcons waited postgame to board their homeward-bound bus, they were clearly accompanied by a feeling of disappointment after the program’s playoff streak was stopped at 14 games.

But there was something else lingering around the team — excitement.

A third straight state title — and what would have been the program’s first at this level after winning back-to-back Division 3 crowns — was not in the cards. However, with Walsh returning all but two players from this roster, Danvers is already an early front-runner to return to the Tsongas Center in March 2015.

Losing seniors Kieran Beck and Mark McCarthy will not be something Danvers can just shrug off. McCarthy filled the point guard void left behind when his cousin, Eric Martin, graduated last spring. He played above expectations by doing the majority of the ball handling, pitching in on defense and playing with a fearlessness on offense that must run in the family.

Beck, meanwhile, was Mr. Versatility. He was asked to play a variety of roles — defensive stopper, reliable scoring option, part-time ballhandler — and tackled each of them with the heart of a champion.

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