Danvers High Boys Cagers: A Surprising Season Of Title Success; Coach John Walsh: Author of Historic Extended Success

A few thoughts about the Danvers High boys, 17-4, before they begin defense of their Division 2 state championship as the No.3 or No. 4 seed in the North section. Seedings and pairings should be announced Friday or Saturday.

  • We should not be surprised. John Walsh has provided us with a historic surprise every single one of his six seasons as the Danvers High boys basketball team. In the process he has created a record of excellence that NO OTHER program on the North Shore can match. Year 1 gave us a 13-10 record, after only two wins the year before, and two tournament victories for the first time in program history. Year 2 produced a Division 3 state championship. Who would have imagined???? Year 3 a repeat Division 3 state title. Who would have believed??? Again???? Year 4, with several key players graduated, a magnificent 20-3 record, powered by the arrival of Hingham High junior transfer Devon Harris, and, now moved up to D-2, a D-2 North title game loss to New Mission.  Year 5 — this cannot be happening — a perfect 27-0 record, a fourth straight NEC division and overall title and the D-2 state championship. And now Year 6, with a big chunk of scoring, defense and rebounding graduated in the form of Harris, Peter Merry and Vinny Clifford, the Falcons, now quick and small, defy the experts and produce a 17-4 record, 10 points (not 11, as I have written previously) shy of a possible 21-0 mark and, in the Falcons’ first year in the NEC Large Division, the NEC Large title with a 13-3 mark. It’s almost like we DHS rooters of the past 40 years have died and gone to high school basketball heaven. Only that this heaven has come true for us earthlings from Danvers.
  • As blessed as the Falcon program has been with a large group of exceptionally talented, improve-oriented and coachable players over the past six seasons, none of this would have happened without the coaching of John Walsh. I know. This is a recording. In his varsity head coaching opportunity, Walsh has become a legend in his own time, no matter what happens in this upcoming post-season or beyond; whether he stays at Danvers one more year, 10 more years or no more years. Walsh found the perfect place to maximize his coaching pedigree (five years as asst. varsity coach to his cousin at Watertown High), and then-DHS athletic director John Sullivan found the perfect solution to his coaching vacancy. Walsh suffered one bump in his rookie year when he had a most public verbal disagreement on the fieldhouse homecourt with a disgruntled player’s parent after his second game at the helm. After that, it’s been all positive historic milestones that have created a 122-23 record never before attained by a varsity hoop coach on the North Shore.
  • It seems unrealistic to believe Walsh won’t be gone sooner rather than later to a high-powered Division 1 program, most likely a Catholic Conference entry, so enjoy every game you get to see him coach as the man in charge of the Falcons. Hopefully several more games in the MIAA tournament.
  • Following the afterglow of last year’s once-in-a-lifetime 27-0 campaign, thoughts naturally turned to the 2015-2016 season, This observer figured, unless we secure another transfer miracle like Devon Harris, the next Falcon squad will be lucky to reach the tournament at 10-10. How astuipid could I have been?
  • Veteran returnees Devonn Allen, Rashad “Rudy” Francois (love the way that last name flows off my tongue) and Kenneth “Tre” Crittendon (please read my feature on Tre that appeared in the February 245 edition of The Salem News) all exceeded my expectations in terms of how much they can improve from a year ago.They have all been spectacular with rare exception, bombing away from three-point range (canning 136 among them), spearheading a devil-may-care recklessness on defense that has created a zillion rival turnovers and taking the ball to the basket every time the opponents give them even the slightest opening.
  • Thanks to Walsh’s genius in adapting his offensive and defensive approaches based on his talent (in this case with no one taller than 6-2 sixth man Tahg Coakley but fired by astonishing quickness), this has been yet another Falcon edition no one wants to play, especially not in the post-season.
  • Additionally, Walsh’s approach in giving his players (most of them anyway) freedom to fire up threes from most anywhere and attack the basket in a 1-on-1 situation if the chance arises, has borne great fruit.
  • Francois has taken over games single handedly at both ends of the floor, witness Wednesday night’s NEC title-clinching win at Peabody. His quickness and speed have never before been seen in this town.
  • Allen is another who can take over a game on his own, owner of an instant offense and theft-producing defense.
  • Tre Crittendon  has also made huge strides from last year, able to take over at the point so Allen can move down to the wing, with terrific three-point range and some gorgeous maneuvers attacking the basket and a third who can cause turnovers at any time.
  • Mike Nestor is the heart and soul, with Kieran Moriarty, of Danvers’ rebounding and inside defense, and Nestor has improved his offense by light years from a year ago. He’s a threat to can the three or step to the rim with his effective dribble.
  • Coakley has made a huge difference effectively guarding players bigger than him all season and getting some clutch baskets, as was the case at Peabody./
  • Sophomore Justin Roberto has been a major factor with his three-point accuracy off the bench and came up huge filling in for the injured Allen in games against Swampscott and Marblehead. Add Jon Weimerth to the list of potential game-makers coming off the bench.

Now ;let’s see how they apply all this wonderful regular season winning experience as title defense time gets under way.



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