Merry, a 6-foot-8 center who scored a team-high 23 points in last year’s victory, no longer plays for the Falcons, having moved on to WPI for college. Wayland’s Jaleel Bell, another major player from last year’s game, will be back, and the 6-2 senior point guard is a huge concern for Danvers.
The Warriors’ (19-4) offense runs through Bell, and he’s capable of producing huge scoring nights. He scored 34 in the team’s semifinal win over North Reading and dropped 36 against Danvers last year.
“He’s gotta be one of the best offensive rebounding guards I’ve seen in a long time, and we have to try to keep him off the glass,” Walsh said. “You can’t let him follow up with his own rebound and put it in. You can’t let him turn the corner and keep him out of the paint. He can rise up and hit the 10-15 foot jumper. He’s really tough to defend.”
Martin will likely spend a lot of time guarding Bell, but the Northeastern Conference Small MVP knows it will have to be a team effort.
“We know he’s one of the best in the whole tournament and we’ll obviously cover him man-to-man, but there are a lot of defenses we can play,” Martin said. “We’ll help and key on him most of the game, obviously.’
In addition to Bell, Wayland also returns starters Harry Leavitt, Mark Bonner and Yannick Schaefer from a year ago.
On the offensive end of the floor, Danvers could be a difficult matchup for Wayland.
The Warriors like to play zone and run a couple of three-quarter court presses. The Falcons are very good at taking care of the ball and playing zone opens up perimeter shots for McKenna, Bates and Vinny Clifford.