The proper stage for a game of this magnitude would be the old Boston Garden. It had the infamous dead spots on the parquet floor and it was dingy and poorly lit, yet it was every kid’s dream to play there. With a large crowd on hand, it could be an intimidating or liberating environment for the players. It’s doubtful that either Salem or St. John’s Prep would be intimidated.
Both teams would go into it supremely confident — with good reason.
Salem closed out its 1990 season with a 12-game winning streak, capping it with a 68-58 triumph over Gardner in the title game at what was then called the Worcester Centrum. The only close call the Witches had in the postseason was a 68-66 decision over East Boston (Brunson had 34 points and 8 assists, Pedro Jimenez added 16 points and Mike Giardi chipped in 9 points and 12 rebounds). Overall, Salem won its tourney games by an average of 16.2 points.
For the most part, Salem decimated its opponents that season. The Witches beat Gloucester by 47, Marblehead by 42, Danvers by 38, Swampscott by 30 and Peabody by 26. They won 18 regular season games by an average of 25.2 points. To this day the players can’t fathom how they ever lost two games in the regular season, including a 72-69 decision to Lynn Classical that shattered a 37-game winning streak at the Salem High Fieldhouse.
“We had a (motto) from coach O’Brien that year — winning is an attitude. We fed off that all season,” said Giardi, who was an animal off the glass and picked up the garbage points in support of the team’s more sophisticated scorers. “We lost four starters from our great team the previous year in Eddie Hammonds, Zach Zegarowski, Jeff Woods and Bobby Ward, but that didn’t stop us from reaching our goal (in 1990).