Danvers–Hamilton-Wenham Battle Of The Unbeatens Would Be A Classic For All Time; A Game For The Ages

It’s not going to happen in reality, so let’s make it happen using our educated imagination.

Danvers, 27-0, MIAA Division 2 state champs, versus neighboring Hamilton-Wenham, 25-0, MIAA Division 4 state champs, in a jam-packed Salem High field house, 3000 strong, benefitting the Jimmy Fund. I only wish.

Anyhow, why not? Both programs undefeated for the very first time. Two outstanding coaches: 61-year-old Doug Hoak for H-W, a coaching legend in the region, who has now won state titles in two sports and is in the Massachusetts High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame. And John Walsh, 35, who in five years has established all kinds of seemingly impossible records that no future DHS cage coach could ever match. Of course, we never thought Walsh would accomplish all this —  three state titles the last four years, four straight 20-plus win seasons, a 105-18 record in five seasons, 22-2 in the post-season. Out of this world.

So let’s match them up in a game for the ages. The Generals, who first became a small division/Cape Ann League power under the late, great Sherm Kinney, are deeper than Danvers. They can go eight deep comfortably. While Danvers, miraculously, survived a grueling final 10 games or so, and the entire 27-game season actually, playing six guys, with a seventh, backup point guard Tre Crittendon, an occasional reliable replacement for sophomore sensation Devonn Allen.

H-W has a fabulous sophomore twins combination in Marcus Zegarowski, a point guard that already has drawn the interest of college scouts, and Max, a 6-5 forward with a deadly three-point shot and tons of potential. Half-brother Michael Carter-Williams played one year for H-W before moving on to private school hoops, two years of Syracuse college competition and nows plays for the Milwaukee Bucks, his second season in the NBA.

They are complemented by forward Jimmy Campbell, forward Nikos Lara, guard Nick DiMarino, center Nolan Wilson and subs Austen Michel (guard) and backup center Nico Serpa.

The Generals, who won their 25 games by an average of 24 points and won a mere four games by less than double figures, have an ideal mix of size and quickness.

The Falcons enjoyed a perfectly cohesive, cover-for-each-other, six-player package that complemented each other ideally. As talented as they are, the whole far exceeded the sun of the individual parts. Whenever somebody had to come up with a big play at either end, somebody did.

The Generals would have their hands full with 6-10 center Peter Merry, the Northeastern Conference MVP, 6-5 power forward Devan Harris and 6-4 long-range shooting (and versatile all-around) forward Vinny Clifford. We should have a pre-game three-point shooting contest involving Clifford, Max Z., Allen, sixth man Rashad Francois and a few other H-W entries of Hoak’s choice.

H-W would have to zone Danvers and force the Falcons to bomb away from the perimeter. Danvers had some great games from out there and won many of its biggest games keyed by the trey. But if they tightened up their defense, that would leave many openings for Danvers to feed there ball into Merry and Harris, another scenario for a General demise.

On the other hand, H-W’s quickness and ability to get scoring from six, seven players could makes things mighty uncomfortable for the region’s ranking dynasty.

So many players could step up and assume heroic roles in a game like this. Both teams are rock solid from the foul line. Both teams have coaches with the best of credentials.

Could the Falcons contain the 1-2 Zegarowski punch? Could H-W control Merry-Harris?  Danvers defensive whiz Mike Nestor would surely make Marcus Z. work for every point.

What a game this could be. As I have said for several weeks, H-W is a Division 2 team in Division 4 uniforms, determined by the school’s male enrollment. The Generals could give the Falcons a fantastic run for their money.

But I surmise Danvers’s inside game and four-player three-point offensive threat might be too much for the Generals to handle.

Final dream score: Danvers 63, Hamilton-Wenham 59.

After H-W and Danvers seasons for the ages, this matchup would be a game for the ages.

Final thought: Congratulations to Coaches Hoak and Walsh and players on both sides for delivering history-making seasons which will never be forgotten.

As an aside: nobody played these two state champions tougher than Coach Mike Giardi’s Marblehead squad: two near misses against Danvers, both going right down to the wire, and an overtime defeat to H-W.  The Headers could very easily have gone 3-0 against these behemoths.

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