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March 13, 2013

Danvers basketball notebook: Seniors benefit from last year's tourney experience

BOSTON— In tournament basketball everything matters.

That is at least what Danvers head coach John Walsh tells his reigning Division 3 state champion team. Nobody understands that sentiment more than the starting four seniors captains on this year’s team.

With their backs against the wall and three different lead changes in the final quarter of yesterday’s state semifinal contest against Martha’s Vineyard, Eric Martin, Nick McKenna, Danny Connors and Nick Bates gutted out the win for the Falcons. And for the second straight season, Danvers is headed back to Worcester’s DCU Center for a chance at yet another state title.

”Coach tells us every day at practice that every play matters,” said Connors. “I guess we play the game with that in the back of our minds, even in the final minute.”

Connors hit two clutch free throws with under two minutes to play to give Danvers a two point-lead, then grabbed a much needed defensive rebound on the other end.

”This game came down to the wire and if you don’t make those plays or get those rebounds, the other team could possibly take the lead and it turns out to be a completely different game,” Connors said.

“We’re used to playing on a big stage like this. Last year’s experience definitely helps our confidence late in the game.”

Danvers’ preparation in practice also pays off when it’s trying to close out a tight win.

“It pretty much starts in practice,” Martin said. “We never take days off and go light. Every day is hard and we go at each other.”

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The Falcons (23-2) shot just 52 percent from the free throw line, but perhaps no attempt was more pivotal than McKenna’s final two shots from the line. With Danvers leading by one point with 5.8 seconds left to play, the Falcons managed to get the ball in McKenna’s hands on the inbound pass. McKenna, who went 4-for-6 from the line prior to the final two shots, sank the pair to ice the win for Danvers.

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