Relentless Danvers High Boys Basketball Team Providing Much-Needed Joy to its School and the Community

Winning two tournament games in 2011 was a novelty. Capturing back-to-back MIAA Division 3 state championships the last two years was the ultimate in so many ways.

But what the Danvers High boys basketball team has accomplished this winter defies description, defies all understanding of what this team faced when pre-season practice got under way last November.

Four of last year’s starters gone off to college. The fifth starter, Vinnie Clifford, lost for the entire season with a busted knee repaired at Massachusetts General Hospital late last summer. Kieran Beck, a key reserve last year, the only returnee with valid playing credentials.

So, amazingly, incredibly, the Falcons achieve the impossible with a virtually entirely new cast of characters. Oh yes, and one indescribably talented new face inside in Hingham High transfer Devan “Barkley” Harris.

And here the Falcons sit this morning, 20-2 and one of the two teams locked into Saturday’s Eastern Mass. Division 2 North Section title game against the winner of tonight’s Lynn Classical-New Mission semifinal. New Mission was ranked No. 2 in The Boston Globe’s final “Top 20.” Danvers beast Classical earlier this year at Classical, 58-47.

A win Saturday and the Falcons return to TD Garden for the Eastern Mass. Division 2 final.

As phenomenal a coach as John Walsh is, aided by a dynamic group of assistants led by Mark Garrity and Bob McKenna, and regardless of the potential they saw in this completely “new look” team, how could any of them, let alone any of the team’s supporters, have expected this:

  • A 17-2 regular season accented by two eight-game win streaks
  • Two losses by a combined nine points (three-point loss at Salem; six-point loss at home to Lynn English)
  • Fabulous play by each of the players in Walsh’s six-man rotation — Harris (35 points, 20 rebounds in last night’s emotionally and physically exhausting 62-59 win over Belmont), point guard Mark McCarthy, off guards Rashad Francois and Devon Allen, versatile Kieran Beck and center Peter Merry (eight blocks versus Belmont)
  • The best record in either Northeastern Conference division (12-2) and overall (17-2)
  • Another NEC Small Division title
  • A super successful season like this without the sharp-shooting, multi-talented Clifford, though his leadership sans uniform has been invaluable; and with only two seniors (McCarthy, Beck) on the squad

The three tournament wins and the regular season wins over Beverly and at Lynn Classical and Gloucester have probably been the  highlights of this delightfully improbable season, a smashing success whether the Falcons win any more games or not.

Above all else, this group of young men and their coaches have provided a much-needed joy to a school and community still suffering deeply from the tragedy that occurred on campus at the start of the school year. ¬† No matter what happens these next one, two or three games, that will serve as this team’s greatest legacy.

 

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