, Salem, MA


August 29, 2013

Fantasy Matchups: Hoop Heavyweights Salem vs. St. John's Prep an ultimate hardcourt battle

The North Shore has had its share of boys’ state championship basketball teams over the years, dating back a half century or more.

All of the title teams were good — some even great. They trigger fond memories for the players and coaches who were involved, and for the fans who followed them.

Salem High’s 1990 Division 2 state championship team and St. John’s Prep’s 2011 Division 1 title club are part of that legacy — but they also have qualities that set them apart.

Call them the North Shore’s super-heavyweights in hoop, if you will. Both teams played at an astonishingly high level and with extraordinary consistency in shaping their own destiny. By every measure, quantifiable or otherwise, these two powerhouses would be on the short list of the area’s best teams of all time.

Naturally, this prompts a most intriguing and utterly worthwhile question for North Shore hardwood junkies: how would the Rick Brunson-led Salem Witches, who went 24-2 in winning it all 23 years ago, fare against the Pat Connaughton-led St. John’s Prep Eagles, who finished 25-1 in capturing the 2011 championship?

“Now THAT would be a game to see,” said Mike Fritz, who was a tri-captain and important role player for the 1990 Salem team. “If everybody could be 18 years old again, I’d say why not play it and see how it turns out?”

That, of course, is the crux of the problem. The Salem Witches, who were such a close-knit team during that period under the guidance of coach Jack O’Brien that many of them showed up at a reunion two years ago, are now men who are in the 40-41 age bracket. Meanwhile, the St. John’s Prep players from two years ago are basically half that age.

But in the world of fantasy basketball, which is what this is all about, the possibilities about what could or would happen in a 32-minute clash of the local titans are limitless.

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