Many of the great teams in sports have the unique ability to turn a minor slight — real or imagined — into a major motivational tool.
The Danvers boys basketball team is no exception.
The Falcons (22-2) will battle Martha’s Vineyard in the Division 3 state semifinal at the TD Garden this afternoon (4:15 p.m.), still playing with a chip on their shoulder because their biggest star from the state championship run graduated last June.
George Merry was big in size (6-foot-8) and production (18.2 points per game in five tournament contests) last March. These Falcons have been hungry to prove they’re still good enough to reach an elite level this time around.
“It’s much more rewarding this year because of that. No one thought we’d be able to do it again,” senior point guard Eric Martin said. “Even though we were favorites probably through the whole tournament, everyone thought a team would knock us off because we didn’t have the height. But everyone bought into what we were doing and it feels great to be going back (to the Garden) again.”
Even though Merry, defensive specialist Jon Amico and three-point sniper Mike Scarfo played major roles for the Falcons’ 2012 state championship team, the nucleus was the then-junior class.
Those juniors are now the senior leaders, and they’ve been dreaming about and preparing for this run for a long time.
“It’s so rewarding because it’s all my friends. This group of seniors grew up together and we’ve played basketball together our whole lives, so it was really rewarding to get this win (over Wayland) and move on again,” senior forward Nick Bates said. “We’re a different team without George. We were a great team with him, but definitely a different team. We’re more up-tempo, fast-paced, fast break type of team. I think we’re just as good as last year, if not better, and we have a good chance of going far again.”