By Matt Jenkins
---- — DANVERS — Perhaps never before in Danvers High basketball history has so much attention and focus been put on a player who didn’t score a point and played less than 12 minutes.
That’s the way it was last night for the defending state champion Falcons and their senior point guard, Eric Martin.
Martin’s value has never been measured in points. Danvers has grown accustomed to his presence on the court over the last three seasons, but availability was put in jeopardy when he suffered a hip flexor/groin injury in the Falcons’ loss to Brighton less than two weeks ago.
Martin missed Danvers’ final regular season game, but returned to play limited minutes last night in the Falcons’ 78-41 win over Greater Lawrence in a Division 3 North first round game.
Aside from the expected rust, Martin’s return was a success. The recently named Northeastern Conference Small Player of the Year seemed to be moving at or near full speed, and it seems he’ll be ready to go all out when Minuteman visits for a quarterfinal game Saturday afternoon (4 p.m.).
“It’s just getting better every day,” said Martin, who estimated he played at 90 percent last night. “I’ve pretty much been practicing every day and getting rest when I needed to, and tonight there were obviously times I didn’t have to play. We’re just getting me out when I need to be out, and I’m doing everything I can to get better.”
When healthy, Martin has the uncanny ability to run Danvers’ offense for a full 32 minutes while also playing relentless defense down the other end.
His return to the lineup last night obviously sparked the Falcons (19-2) on the defensive end. Playing primarily man-to-man in the first quarter, Danvers held Greater Lawrence scoreless and built an 18-0 advantage.
“I liked the way we defended, we shot the ball decently, and we rebounded pretty well,” Danvers coach John Walsh said. “Certain kids stepped up in Eric’s absence, but you could see what a difference he makes when he’s out there.”
Martin’s ability to handle the ball also made everything run much smoother on offense, especially for senior guard Nick McKenna. McKenna assumed most of the point guard duties with Martin out, but he shifted back to his normal position last night and the Reggies paid the price.
McKenna shot the ball extremely well and finished with a game-high 24 points.
Sophomore Vinny Clifford also got in on the act, hitting five threes and dropping 18 points. Nick Bates (12 points) and Dan Connors (10) also reached double figures for the Falcons.
Getting a win after two consecutive losses was huge for the Falcons.
“We hadn’t really felt that all year, so we didn’t know what it was like to play after a loss,” Martin said. “To come out and get a big win was definitely good for everyone’s confidence, and then we can just get back on the winning track. Each game will be tougher and tougher, but as long as we do what we’re supposed to do and play hard, we should be all right.”
agateHed:Danvers 78, Greater Lawrence 41
agate_boldCentered:Division 3 North first round
agate_lineQuarters:Greater Lawrence@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Fabian 3-0-8, Martinez 2-0-4, Reyes 1-0-3, Reynoso 6-2-16, Guerrero 2-1-5, Estrella 2-1-5. @SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:Totals@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters: 16-4-41@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:.
agate_lineQuarters:Danvers@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Martin 0-0-0, Bates 5-2-12, Connors 4-2-10, McKenna 9-4-24, D’Hemecourt 0-0-0, Cawlina 1-0-2, Woodbury 1-0-2, Eldridge 0-0-0, McCarthy 0-0-0, Beck 1-2-4, Clifford 6-1-18, Merry 3-0-6, Crittendon 0-0-0. @SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:Totals@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters: 30-1-78@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:.
agate_lineQuarters:Halftime@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: Danvers, 36-15.
agate_lineQuarters:3-pointers@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: GL, Fabian 2, Reynoso 2, Reyes; D, Clifford 5, McKenna 2.
agate_lineQuarters:Records@SportsLocalAgate:agate_lineQuarters:: GL, 10-11; D, 19-2.