When I retired from the Salem News sports department in 1995, I told my colleagues there was a better chance the Patriots would win four Super Bowls and the Red Sox would win three World Series before the Danvers High boys basketball program would win a single state championship.
Well, soon after the sobering realization that the entire Greater Salem contingent of teams in the current MIAA state tournament were wiped out the very first week of play, I find it appropriate to reflect briefly on the historic accomplishments of the John Walsh-coached Danvers High boys cagers spanning 2011-2016.
Considering the Falcons had never won two tournament games in a post-season, what they accomplished in this six-year run under the youthful Walsh (he was 32 his first season at Danvers), is beyond all comprehension.
Walsh’s first team (13-10) became the first DHS boys’ squad to win two tournament games. Little did we know at the time that this modest achievement would be the mere appetizer for one of the winningest, championship-dominated five-year reigns in Massachusetts high school hoop history.
Year 2: 21-4: Division 3 state title, first ever Northeastern Conference Division and Overall titles, miracle 70-67 Division 3 semifinal win over Wayland, first Boston Globe Coach of the Year award (John Walsh), first Boston Globe All-Scholastic honoree from Danvers since 1973 (George Merry)
Year 3: 24-2: Repeat Division 3 state title, repeat NEC Division and Overall titles, won first 18 games, gained first No. 1 ranking in Boston Globe Top 20 at end of regular season and first such ranking for a Division 3 team, first Division 3 team to win back-to-back state titles in 16 years, second straight year with a Boston Globe All-Scholastic (Eric Martin), second North Shore team to win successive state titles
Year 4: 20-3: With no returning starters, newcomer Devan Harris becomes NEC MVP, repeat NEC Division and Overall titles, Division 2 North runnerup
Year 5: 27-0: Perfection – And accomplished the hard way – moving up from Division 3 to Division 2, nine wins by less than 10 points, 8 wins by six points or less, fourth straight NEC Overall and Division champs, Peter Merry named NEC MVP, finish No. 2 behind Div. 1 state champ Catholic Memorial in final Globe rankings, fourth team to win three state titles in a four-year span since divisional alignment created in 1974 and only of the four to move up a division during the streak, second North Shore team ever to finish 27-0 (with 1980 Salem High girls), fourth straight 20-win season, five-year record 105-19, 72-8 the past four years, five-year tourney record of 22-2, Devan Harris repeats as Globe All-Scholastic, John Walsh named Globe Coach of the Year for second time
Year 6: 18-5: Fifth straight year NEC Division (Large) and Overall champs, fifth straight year with 18 or more wins, won 30th straight homecourt game against Melrose in Div. 2 tournament, clutch performances by every player in the rotation – Tre Crittendon, Rashad Francois, Mike Nestor, Justin Roberto, Devonn Allen, Kieran Moriarty and Tahg Coakley, fabulous finish for John Walsh – 123-24 record—and you know the rest of his phenomenal story.
New coach Jahron (“Jay”) Giddings led the young and inexperienced Falcons to a 3-17 record this season but he and the team have a promising future.