BOSTON — Nine faces on the TD Garden parquet carried grimacing or stone-faced looks as the final minutes of a tense, physical Division 3 state semifinal melted off the jumbotron.
The 10th face — belonging to Danvers senior guard Eric Martin — was animated, spitting out encouragement to teammates, urging the large contingent of fans wearing Falcon blue to get loud, and just generally breathing the moment in.
Based on Martin’s attitude, intensity and competitive spirit, it only makes sense that the Northeastern Conference Small MVP made the biggest shot in Danvers’ 50-47 win over Martha’s Vineyard. Martin and the Falcons will now get a shot to repeat as state champions when they face Smith Academy of Hatfield on Saturday (12:30 p.m.) at Worcester’s DCU Center.
Advancement by the Falcons was hardly a sure thing against the Vineyarders, a long, athletic team that played an air-tight zone defense. Hoops were hard to come by, especially late in the game, but Martin made an awkward jump shot with the shot clock running out and only a shade over one minute remaining.
An attempt to get senior guard Nick McKenna open on the wing fell through and the ball rotated back to Martin, who tried to square up as he was releasing a shot off his right shoulder from the foul line.
The bucket dropped, giving Danvers a 47-43 advantage. It was the last of only two fourth quarter field goals for the Falcons.
“How did that go in?,” Danvers coach John Walsh asked. “When he shot it, I knew it was going in — because that’s what Eric does.
“It was disgusting. It looked like a shot put.”
That, in a nutshell, sums up Eric Martin the basketball player.
Martin is a star soccer player bound for UMass Lowell, which is transitioning into a Division 1 program. He’s a scoring machine on the pitch, but on the hardwood he barely passes the eye-test.