By Matt Jenkins
---- — DANVERS — The Touchdown Club of Danvers honored the two-time Division 3 state champion Danvers High boys basketball team last night at Timothy’s at The Village Green.
The team was treated to a meal, presented a proclamation from Governor Deval Patrick recognizing their accomplishments, and had a chance to publicly view the team highlight film created by Danvers High student Anthony Pellino.
“There’s no place like Danvers. The support is overwhelming, and it’s one thing after another,” Danvers head coach John Walsh said. “This is a great thing for us — and the last one for us as a team together. It’s great to be honored by a club like this.”
The Touchdown Club was honored to host the Falcons again.
“It’s not every school that wins one state championship, so last year we honored the team and it’s a wonderful thing to do,” Touchdown Club Executive Board member Barry Robertson said. “This year we are actually a month late because they played the Saturday before the date we had them last year. We all had our fingers crossed that we could have a repeat performance, not only as a state champ but also here at the Touchdown Club.”
The event was another special moment for the Falcons, especially the seniors who had a chance to relive their two straight state titles possibly for the last time as high school students.
More than a month has passed since the Falcons defeated Smith Academy 66-50 at the DCU Center in Worcester, plenty of time for the magnitude of the accomplishment to sink in.
“I’ve been watching the highlight video like every night,” Danvers senior captain Nick McKenna said. “I just don’t want it to be over with because it’s been a pretty good run. It’s tough to be done with high school basketball, but it’s a good way to go out with back-to-back state titles.”
The Danvers seniors — McKenna, Danny Connors, Nick Bates, Eric Martin, Duncan d’Hemecourt, Jake Cawlina, Justin Woodbury and Evan Eldridge — completed a two-year run with a combined 45-6 record.
“It feels amazing, especially this being our senior year,” Connors, one of four Danvers captains, said. “All of us have been playing together since fourth grade and being able to accomplish what we did as seniors feels good.”
Martin, the NEC Small Most Valuable Player this season, suggested that last year’s title was for the seniors then; this time around was about the current group of seniors.
“It was a great way to end it and it was good that it was our team this year,” said Martin, who will play soccer at Division 1 UMass Lowell next year. “Obviously we were part of it last year, but it was more about George (Merry) and them. This was more for us.”
Now, the seniors are turning it over to the younger players in hopes that they can continue the winning ways.
“They’ve gotta be used to winning now, so they’re just going to take it with them next year and coach Walsh will do the same things that he’s done since he got here,” Bates said.
Bates, who recently decided to attend Salve Regina, and the Springfield College-bound McKenna will each play Division 3 college basketball next year.
Martin is playing soccer, Connors will possibly be playing baseball next year in college at either Salem State or UMass Amherst, and Cawlina is playing football at Curry College.
All together, this group of basketball seniors has to go down as one of the best groups of athletes in Danvers history. And last night was a fitting end to the season.
“We’re lucky to have the Touchdown Club in Danvers to honor us,” Walsh said. “All these guys go to our games and really support us. It’s great for the end of the year.”