Danvers Cagers Appear Destined to Win Second D-3 State Title This Week

Call me an eternal optimist. Do not call me a Jinx Machine. There’s no such thing anyway. But doesn’t the fate of the surging Danvers High Basketball team look oh so inevitable after passing its sternest test of this magical season against Wayland Saturday at Tsongas Arena?

How can they possibly lose to 18-5 Martha’s Vineyard, a No. 7 seed that lost to a 7-12 team (Dartmouth) by seven points during the regular season? No matter.

After what we saw Saturday in Lowell, with the Falcons fighting off every challenge delivered by an excellent Wayland team, I love this team’s chances of beating the Vineyarders tomorrow in TD Garden and then winning Saturday in the state title game in Worcester. Let us count the ways.

1. Resilience. Every time Wayland (you have to feel sorry for the Warriors; three losses in three years to the Falcons, all close tourney games, the last two determined in large part by super clutch three-pointers by reserve guards Joe Scarfo in 2012, Jake Cawlina Saturday) put the heat on, the Falcons responded at both ends of the floor. The Falcons do not get rattled.

2. The Falcons’ balanced offense. Even with Dan Connors (4 points) and Vinny Clifford (6)struggling offensively, old reliables Nick McKenna (14, 8 rebounds) and Nick Bates (13 points) carried on, and key reserves Cawlina (9 points, 3-for-4 from 3-point land) and Kieran Beck (4 points, clutch steal in the final minute) played huge roles. I also believe if the eighth, ninth or 10th men were needed, they would come up big as well.

3. Nick McKenna. I don’t know where this team would be without the senior guard and most dependable scorer.  Looking back, it’s truly amazing the Falcons went 7-0 during McKenna’s layoff with mononucleosis during mid-season. Think the Prep wishes he’d stayed? ‘Nuff said. Cleary Nick made the right choice in returning to his roots and his basketball buddies since middle school.

4. Eric Martin. The Northeastern Conference MVP (in soccer too) is a marvel of an athlete. Hard to believe he is not playing at 100 percent. Make no mistake. If he had not gotten hurt midway through the Brighton (Division 2 EMass finalist Tuesday in the Garden) game and then missed the Newton North game, these Falcons might be 24-0 rather than 22-0. But who’s to complain at this juncture? He’s playing marvelously, sore groin and hip all.

5. The coaching staff. John Walsh and company know when to give the regulars a blow, when to insert supersubs Beck and Cawlina, when to call timeouts, when to change strategy, and, most important, how to prepare for an opponent. Just ask Jaleel Bell.

Now, some statistical and historical perspective.

  • At 22-2, the Falcons broke the record 21 wins they garnered last year and, like last year’s squad, have become the winningest major sports team in DHS history.
  • The Falcons are outscoring their opponents by an average of 72-46 in four tourney games, though they only got tested in the last two, and really really tested Saturday. Yes, they know how to handle pressure. Martha’s Vineyard (MV) is beating its foes by an average of 65-54.
  • MV is legit. We just don’t know how legit. They beat top seed and 22-1 Wareham in the D-3 South final, 77-71, which gives them serious credibility, though the Falcons clobbered Wareham by 23 in TD Garden last year. MV beat Bourne by 33, Bp. Feehan by 65-63, and Medway by 10 before beating Wareham. Their regular season losses came to 16-5 Dennis-Yarmouth by 9, 16-6 Mashpee by four, 9-7 Somerset Berkley by one, 7-12 Dartmouth by 7 and Abington by 2. MV was 7-3 at one point, won seven straight, lost two straight later. They’ve won five in a row leading into tomorrow.
  • The Falcons are 43-6 the last two years, 46-16 overall with Walsh in charge, in what has evolved into the greatest two- and three-year runs by a major DHS sports team.
  • Danvers, after these next two wins, will become the first team since Pioneer Regional in the western part of the state (1996-97) to win back-to-back D-3 state titles. Fellow NEC member Lynn Classical did it in 1993-94, Cohasset in 1985-86. They’re the only other North Shore teams to win consecutive state titles since the three-division format took place in 1972. The last back-to-back title team in all four divisions was D-1 Newton North in 2005-06. Charlestown won four straight under John Calipari clone Jack O’Brien 2000-03. D-2 two straighters have been East Boston (1985-86), Commerce (1976-78) and North Andover (1974-75). Other North Shore state champs have been St. John’s Prep (D-1, 2011), Salem (D-2, 1990, 1995), Lynn Tech (D-3, 2002), Newburyport (D-3, 2000), St. Mary’s (D-4, 2012, 2001), Ipswich (D-4, 2005) and Lynnfield (D-4, 2000).
  • Prediction: Danvers 67, Martha’s Vineyard 59
This entry was posted in Gary. Bookmark the permalink.