Welcome to the website of Gary Larrabee, 2016 NEPGA George Wemyss Award Recipient

Welcome to the home page for Gary Larrabee, journalist, author and historian, recipient of the 2016 New England PGA George S. Wemyss Award “in recognition of an exemplary and legendary career in service to the game of golf through your dedication and talent  as an author and historian sharing the past and current history of this great game.

Congratulations to legendary NEPGA golf professional Paul Barkhouse (and wife Nancy), upon their retirement  after a 53-year career as a golf professional, mostly as a club professional, but also as a PGA Tour player. The most popular player in the NEPGA Section spanning the last half-century, Barkie was most notably the head professional at Ferncroft Country Club for 12 years and most recently served as head professional at Woburn (with Nancy at his side, running the behind-the-counter duties) for the past 17 years.

I have been fortunate enough to have chronicled Paul’s wonderful career, first as his caddy in 1968 and 1969, later covering most of his major victories, including one Massachusetts Open, one New England Open, two New Hampshire Opens, two Maine Opens, two NEPGA Matrch Play titles and two Eugene “Skip” Wogan Player of the Year awards.

The Woburn CC membership, led by Barry Donovan, and Paul’s friends, fellow  NEPGA members and family honored Paul and Nancy at Woburn CC on November 17.

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DEEEEEEEEEEE-fense: Super Bowl Victory No. 6 Was All About the DEEEEEEEEEEE-fense

Give Tom Brady credit for delivering one clutch scoring drive, when it appeared the vaunted Patriots’ offense was going to fall on its collective face, as in the two New York Giants Super Bowl upset defeats. Credit Rob Gronkowski for one of the great late-game catches in Super Bowl history. Credit Julian Edelman for an MVP game as Brady’s favorite receiver. His catches at least moved the ball down the field and ate up clock and wore down to an extent the Rams’ defense.

Credit the offensive line for consistent pass blocking for Brady and the occasional quick opening for the Sony Michel/Rex Burkhead ground game. Credit Stephen Gostkowski for delivering on two clutch field goals.

But make no mistake, people. This record-matching sixth Super Bowl victory was ALL about an extraordinary defense in what evolved into the lowest scoring game in 53 years of Super Bowl heroics. A defense that gave up 41 points last year to backup Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, allowed a mere three points this time against the second most prolific offense in the National Football League this past season. Egg was all over the faces of head coach Bill Belichick and defensive coordinator Matt Patricia after last year’s debacle in Minneapolis. Patricia fled to Detroit as the Lions’ new head coach. Bill stayed behind to try and make up for his screw-up from the Eagles debacle.

This time, the faces of Belichick and DC Brian Flores were plastered with nothing more than strategic brilliance, even moreso after Patrick Chung was lost for the game in the third quarter due to injury.

Just amazing. A defense that was maligned throughout much of the season, especially after road losses at Detroit and later Tennessee, became a critical component of the Patriots’ remarkable Super Bowl drive to victory. After losing back-to-back games at Miami and Pittsburgh, the defense became the Rock of Gibraltar, carrying the team to five straight victories and impressive playoff performances against the L.A. Chargers, the favored Kansa City Chiefs (shutting them out in Arrowhead for the first thirty minutes), and then baffling Rams’ QB whiz kid Jared Goff, keeping the Rams out of the end zone for the entire 60 minutes. Maybe Goff was in over his head, maybe not.

Astounding.

So as the Patriots continue re-writing the NFL record book in so many ways, i.e. ninth Super Bowl appearance, a record-tying (with the Steelers) sixth Super Bowl victory, record-breaking sixth wins for Belichick and Brady, etc., etc., etc., the greatest dynasty in the history of sport, especially since the onset of free agency and the rest of the parity-seeking rules the Steelers never had to deal with, rolls along. And only a few months after the Red Sox won their fourth World Series in the last 13 years.

My oh my. We Bostonians continue as the envy of professional sports fans everywhere. Time to get ready for another duck boat parade.

And ALL, I emphasize All, thanks to the Patriots’ defense, which now must be considered one of the great defenses in Super Bowl annals. Yes, Bill, this makes up for last year’s debauchery in Minnie.

 

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Pressure All on the Patriots against the Rams in Super Bowl LIII; 6-3 sounds/looks much, much better than 5-4

  • A few gazillion observations to catch up with after all these months of inactivity, starting with — drum roll, please — the amazing, indescribable, history-making New England Patriots.

The Patriots of BBK (Brady, Belichick, Kraft) have ALL the pressure on them in their date with the Los Angeles Rams February 3. Eerie that the game is being played on the exact same date in which the Pats began their dynastic dominance of the NFL 17 years ago. Yes, we are thrilled they are back in their third straight Super Bowl and ninth in the BBK era (never underestimate Robert Kraft’s impact on the creation and maintenance  of the greatest championship run in NFL annals). But now that we are sobered up after the euphoric post-game feeling from last Sunday night’s spectacular win in Kansas City, now comes the really really really hard part.

The Patriots may only be slight favorites in the eyes of the oddsmakers, but they are a bigger favorite in the perception of their faithful fans and a second straight Super Bowl loss, after last year’s heartbreaking setback to the Eagles will be devastating to the team’s “best-of-all-time” image locally and around the NFL world.

A 6-3 Super Bowl record is a trillion times better in every way than a 5-4 record. Try the two sets of numbers on for size. The Pats are so good at reaching the Super Bowl, that achieving eight straight AFC Championship games don’t mean that much in contrast, not when you’ve lost three of your last five appearances in the Big Game.

The team’s detractors — and there are millions of them (“You hate us because you ain;’t us,” as Germaine Wiggins famously proclaimed) — will have a field day if TB-12 and Company does not win this one, simple as that. What they have accomplished is mind boggling, brain-numbing, you name it. But the feat is diminished when you see a 5-4 Super Bowl record.

And the haters will emphasize how bloody lucky the Pats were in both the Seattle/Pete Carroll screwup and the Atlanta meltdown victories, never mind the fact the other three they won way back more than a decade ago were also all nail biters, two them being won on a final-seconds Adans Vinatieri field goal.

We do NOT want to have to listen — and read — all about that stuff for the next year, until the Pats show up at their 10th Super Bowl in the BBK Era.

Needless to say Brady and Friends are incredibly motivated to NOT screw this one up after last year’s defensive unit’s total collapse the second half.I’m not sure if we’re better off without Malcolm Butler, but the marvelous defensive successes against San Diego and KayCee (the first half anyway) give me infinite hope that the Pats can continue their record book-breaking spree.

In fact, I will not be surprised if the Pats win by two touchdowns. But the Pats do not win Super Bowls by two touchdowns. They win — or lose — Super Bowls by the narrowest of margins. So have the alcohol beverage of choice at hand and in good supply. I fear we’ll need it to get through another heart attack/stroke inducer.

Bottom line, though ——– I love the Pats’ chances of winning Number 6. And to think back in 2000 I wondered if I’d see even one Patriots Super Bowl victory before I go to my favorite golf course in heaven; when now I’ve seen five, could have been eight!!!!!!!!!!!, or might have been three. But here we are at 5 and counting.

  • We loved Welker. We loved Amendola. Now, we don’t just love Julian Edelman (and Gronk, and Hogan and Dorsett and Patterson). We love No. 11 to the point that we can’t explain or quantify. The catch he made against the Seahawks will stand in Super Bowl Hall of Fame status forever. But the clutch catches he made in Arrowhead Stadium place him on a pedestal reserved previously only by Troy Brown. And remember we almost lost him for the game after the Brady pass that went off his fingertips into the hands of a KayCee defender led to him almost getting decapitated by a Chief defender-turned-blocker.
  • And delighted to see Hogan find his groove, and Gronk resume his “big catch” habit.
  • Could you be any happier about the Pats’ running game with the Michel-Burkhead-White troika?
  • Or that the offensive line has attained All-World status the last two playoff games with their hole-opening efficiency and phenomenal protection of Brady?
  • Final score: Patriots 34, Rams 24

 

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A Good Time To Remember John Walsh And The 2011-2016 Danvers High Hoop Falcons Juggernaut

 

 

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.

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Danvers Girls Give Natick A Scare Before Falling In Gieras Games Finale

One minute into the third quarter of Wednesday night’s Gieras Games championship encounter between heavily favored Natick and host Danvers High, the underdog Falcons were giving the visitors all they could handle in the DHS field house:  Natick 29, Danvers 28.

Considering the opponent and the stakes, it may have been Danvers’ best 17-minute stretch of the season. This was one outstanding team they were facing; a squad that should make a run in the upcoming Eastern Mass. tournament. Facing a much bigger,better shooting and vastly superior inside power game, Danvers (now 10-10) was every bit Natick’s equal where it counted most – on the scoreboard.

But from that juncture forward, it was all Natick (now 14-6), the Redhawks riding the shoulders of super standout freshman center Brenna McDonald, already being eyed by college recruiters (19 points 13 rebounds, 9-for-11 from the foul line), and sharpshooting forward Makenna (“Three-point”) Range (21 points on 7-for-12 from behind the arc, most of them purer swishes), to a 59-38 victory.

Make no mistake, however. If the Falcons can extend that 17-minute stretch agains Natick to 20 or 25 minutes, they could emerge as a Cinderella team when the EMass tourney begins next week. Before, though, they play their “Endowment Game” (stats count, the win or loss does not) Friday at 6 at DHS.

“I can’t fault our effort that first half (which ended, 29-26),” Danvers coach Pat Veilleux declared, “and really the effort for the entire game. The fact we finished off plays offensively, made a good percentage of shots (6-12 in the first quarter) and forced a lot of Natick turnovers (11 by halftime, 19 after three quarters) are all encouraging signs as we move forward. We trailed by only 12 after three. Antic knew they were;t home free yet.

“But once they hit those two threes and s third field goal to open the fourth quarter, they were in control. Still, our players have a lot from this game to feel good about and if we can apply the good stuff for more than two quarters once we get in the tournament, we could surprise a few people.”

There were plenty of positives to take away from this defeat against a team that should be making news in their league and in the state tournament for the next several years, what with five if their top players either freshmen or sophomores, led by McDonald and sophomore Range.

McNulty (11 points) has regained her three-point shooting accuracy, while Sarah Unczur (Gieras Games All-Tourney team member with Nicole White), White, Elena Clifford, Siobhan Moriarty, Lilly Montanari, Lydia Runnals, and Cheyenne Messenger give the Falcons plenty of two-way talent to give opposing teams upcoming plenty to worry about.

“We accomplished our mission in beating Newburyport the first night and qualifying for the tournament (10th time in 11 years in his tenure),” Veilleux said. “We’d all have preferred a better outcome tonight, but we gave all we had and it was mighty good for most of three quarters. Now we go from here and see what we can do when the tourney bell rings next week.”

Tourney pairings will come out this weekend..In a pre-game ceremony, Gieras Games Committee members Veilleux and Mike Hennessey, along with Jack Kelley, presented Sue Gieras, Ed’s wife, his No. 33 road jersey in all royal blue with white trim and number that will be placed in the trophy case in the field house lobby signifying Ed Gieras as the only DHS boys’ scorer to reach 1000 points…Sue Gieras also tossed up the ceremonial first jump ball.

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Danvers Girls Gain Gieras Games Final; Punch Ticket to 10th EMass Tourney Berth In 11 Years Under Veilleux

 

It’s been a long slog, but after jumping out to a 7-0 record, the Danvers High girls basketball team finally earned their 10th Eastern Mass. tournament berth in 11 years Tuesday night, defeating Newburyport in impressive fashion, 43-29, in the opening night of the second annual Ed Gieras Memorial Tournament – the Gieras Games — in the DHS fieldhouse.

In posting that much-sought 10th victory, the Falcons advance to tonight’s 7 p.m. title game against Natick, a 71-48 winner over Reading in the other matchup.

Sarah Unczur led Danvers with 13 points, eight straight coming in the first quarter when the home team jumped out to an 8-0 lead and led for the entire game. Lily Montanari added 11 off the bench and Nicole White scored nine for the 10-9 Falcons.

“A terrific effort from our girls made it happen tonight,” coach Pat Veilleux said. “The girls knew they needed to rise above it all – the struggles they’ve been dealing with the last few weeks – and they did. They showed tonight how resilient they can be under the most difficult of circumstances; the way they’ve dropped some tight games during this tailspin; games they know they could have won but didn’t. Tonight showed they can respond beautifully under unbelievable pressure.”

The bigger Falcons took care of business from the start and were in command throughout. Once the visiting Clippers drew within 10-5 at the end of the first quarter, Danvers extended its lead to start the second, made it 21-10 by halftime, keyed by seven second quarter points by “sixth player” Montanari, and led by double figures the entire second half.

“We had several major contributors tonight, starting with Sarah,” Veilleux said. “This had to be one of her best all around games – scoring, rebounding, defending – of the season. Nicole White showed excellent leadership at point guard. She changes the complexion of the game with her tenacity alone, but she does so many good things for us.

“We’re never going to be known for wearing the nets out at the offensive end,” Veilleux added, “so we try and make it happen at the defensive end, like tonight. Newburyport didn’t get many second shots and we controlled the boards. Bottom line, we played four quarter of solid basketball.”

It might be added against a feisty team with a winning record. But the Clippers suffered a horrendous shooting night, something of which the winners are quite familiar. But they got the job done from the get-go and move into the title game tonight against a powerful Natick team that must be considered the favorite.

At the same time, this matchup gives the Danvers girls a unique opportunity to get themselves in a “winning mode” heading into the Division 2 North Section tourney starting next week.

“All we can ask of ourselves is to give it our best shot against Natick,” Veilleux noted. “We do that and we’ll give Natick a battle to the end.”

Newburyport junior forward Paige Goldthorpe performed a masterful rendition of the national anthem…Both teamns left the court 10-9…Freshman forward Cheyenne Nessinger had two blocks…The Falcons need to cut back on the 23 turnovers they committed against NHS. The Clippers committed 29…Great job all year by Adam Skinner, Luke Llewellyn and Jack Murphy in selling 50-50 tickets at all DHS girls home games…Kristen Gieras, daughter of Ed Gieras, the former Danvers High and Salem State hoop standout, for whom the tournament is named, tossed up the ceremonial tapoff ball before the Natick-Reading joust. Her mom, Sue Gieras, will do the same before tonight’s championship game…NHS suffered a scoreless drought for the last 3:11 of the first quarter and the last 5:11 of the second.

 

 

 

 

 

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Danvers Girls Battle Back Twice But Fall Short at Beverly, 54-47

The Danvers High girls, needing one more win to qualify for the Eastern Mass. tournament, fought back twice from nine-point deficits in the second half but came up short in crunch time Thursday night at Beverly High, succumbing 54-47 in the Henry Cabot Lodge Fieldhouse.

The Falcons, 9-9 after a 7-0 start, now must win one of their two remaining games, both part of the second annual Eddie Gieras Memorial Tournament, also known as the Gieras Games, slated for Tuesday and Wednesday at DHS. They either take care of Newburyport Tuesday at 7 p.m. or in their game Wednesday, either in the third place game at 5:30 or the title game at 7.

“We got off to a good start,” Danvers coach Pat Veilleux said, “but then we struggled offensively the rest of the half and had to play catch-up virtually the rest of the game. But the girls rallied on two different occasions and had chances down the stretch but couldn’t quite pull it off.”

Beverly beat Danvers, thus avenging a narrow 31-29 defeat at Danvers earlier in the season, by making four first-half three-pointers, three in the final two minutes for a 29-20 intermission lead, then by making four more in the second half. Senior guard Natalie Mellinger led the way with a career-high 31 points. She and Brooke Baekey combined to make eight threes, which offset Danvers’ two spirited comebacks, one to 29-25, the other which gave the Falcons a 37-36 lead early innate fourth on a Sarah Unczur turnaround in close.

There Falcons had drawn within 36-333 after three quarters thanks to an 8-2 run in the last 2:17, the final score an all-the-weak steal by sore shouldered Nicole White, aided on the double team by Unczur.

The fourth quarter was a barnburner, Lydia Runnels scoring inside to tie it at 39, then Elena Clifford knotting it at 42 on her third three of the game, seconds after Baekey, a sophomore, hit one for the Panthers.

Danvers drew within one at 46-45 with 1:14 left on a Siobhan Moriarty three and again at 48-47 on a White baseline pop with 30 seconds left. Maligner sank 6 straight foul shots the last 30 seconds to seal it while all the Falcons could do was misfire on one three-point attempt. Mellinger shot 11-for12 from the foul line.

After leading 10-6 early, the Falcons could have stolen this one down the stretch with a little luck. Beverly got their share of good fortune, especially on an off-the-glass two-point Baekey made from the top of the key with 38 seconds left that gave Beverly a 48-45 advantage.

Three Falcons had nine points each — Clifford, Unczur and Moriarty.

Now it’s all about the Gieras Games and there need to capture win No. 10 Tuesday so that the pressure is off Wednesday, at least in terms of making the post-season tourney.

Let’s hope it happens Tuesday.

 

 

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Danvers High Girls Cagers’ Rally Falls Short; Lose At Peabody, 47-41

The Danvers High girls, seeking a second straight win and their eighth of there season, dug a huge hole for themselves in the first quarter at Peabody Friday night. They were staring at a 16-2 deficit heading into the second session. They could have quit, but they did quite the contrary, battling back throughout there remaining three quarter and had chances to pull out the game in there fourth quarter before succumbing, 47-41.

The Falcons are now 8-6 and need two more wins in their last six to qualify for the Division 2 Eastern Mass. tourney.

Thankfully Siobhan Moriarty scored on hoop in the first quarter or the Falcons might have been shut out — not a pleasant experience. But they started their uphill mission in the second, drawing within 22-15 before a basket right before the buzzer gave there Tanners a 41-27 advantage at halftime.

Danvers trailed by only 41-34 with 5:39 remaining in the third and by only 42-37 after Lydia Runnels drove the lane with 4:04 left. From that point the Falcons, a shaky free throw shooting team all season, killed their chances to complete a marvelous comeback by missing eight of their last 12 freebies.

They missed two foul shots at 44-38 and two more at 45-38 with 1:24 showing.

Sarah Unczur finished with 10 points, Nicole White with eight despite foul trouble the entire second half, Julia McNulty hit two more threes and had seven and Elena Clifford chipped in with six.

The Falcons try and win their ninth game at Lynn Classical Tuesday, then host Gloucester Friday.

 

 

 

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Skidding Danvers High Girls Give Unbeaten Revere A Scare Before Falling, 52-36

It was another night of frustration and inconsistency for the struggling Danvers High girls’ basketball team Friday night in the DHS field house. Undefeated Revere came in 12-0 and a large favorite over the home team, but the Falcons (now 7-5 after losing their fifth in a row) gave the visitors all they could handle before Revere pulled away in the last five minutes for a 52-36 victory.

‘Twas the same old story for the Danvers girls: 24 turnovers and 15-for-51 shooting and failures to take advantage of several openings the Patriots provided, but which the Falcons did not take advantage of.

In each of the first three quarters, Revere, featuring twin towers Meaghan Gotham and Valentina Pepic (24 points), got off to starts one would expect from a winless team, not one that’s undefeated. Revere shot 0-for-7 from the floor in the first 5:15, but Danvers never led by more than two points, went the last 2:27 scoreless and trailed 11-6 after one.

Second quarter Revere mopened 1-for-8 and led by only 14-11 after Sarah Unczur converted a three-point play down low. But Danvers, though doing a fine job in its floating zone holding town the twin towers, went scoreless there last 3:33 and was in a hole at the break, 22-11.

Revere opened the third quarter missing its first five shots and failing to convert a field goal until 3:34 had passed, and this time Danvers was opportunistic, scoring the first six points of the quarter in the first 1:25 as guards Nicole White (runner in the lane) and Siobhan Moriarty (10-footer and a fast break layup) got the Danvers crowd fired up. Revere was shaken somewhat, leading only 23-17 at this juncture. The Falcons kept the margin under 10 by the end of the canto (34-25) and weren’t dead yet.

With Revere scoring on two points in the first 2:20, Danvers made one last run, thanks to another three-point play inside by the junior Unczur (12 total) and a the home team’s only three-point bomb from Moriaerty at the 5:40 (to go) mark, drawing there locals within 36-31. But DHS scored only five points the rest of the way while Pepic scored 10 points from there to the finish

The Falcons wrap up their four-game homestead Tuesday at 7 against Lynn English.

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Red-Hot Three-Game Stretch Puts Danvers High’s Justin Roberto In Rare Three-Point Company

The Danvers High boys basketball team is experiencing a transition year with promising new head coach Jay Giddings, the Falcons having won but two games heading into tonight’s Northeastern Conference meeting at Revere – a good shot for win No. 3.

Throughout this struggling campaign, one of the brightest lights has been the three-point shooting of junior point guard Justin Roberto.

We got an idea of what kind of potential Justin had as a long range bomber last season as a sophomore when, filling in for the injured Devon Allen, Justin hit five clutch three-pointers in a hard-fought road victory at Marblehead.

This season he has taken his overall game — and three-point launching — to a new level. That was never more evident than during a recent three-game stretch in which Justin made 19 of 34 threes and averaged 30 points and the Falcons won their first game of the year at Saugus. In that same time frame The Falcons showed continued improvement as a team while losing on a last-second three-pointer at home to Salem and lost a sizable second half lead while falling at Winthrop.

Roberto, a 5-10, 160-pounder, scored a career-high 33 against Saugus.

“Justin has developed a great feel for the game,” says Giddings. “Offensively he has learned, and on occasion sensed, how to take advantage of what the defense gives him and how to best position himself to collect a teammate’s pass. He doesn’t force his shots. He’s not afraid to shoot long ranging he rarely forces a three.”

Justin started recognizing his three-point possibilities as a 15  point-per -game scorer as a freshman player on the DHS jayvees. “I took maybe five three-pointers a game,” he remembered. “Made maybe 2 of them, some games one or none. But the fact Coach (Bob) McKenna encouraged me was what mattered  most.”

It worked right into then-coach John Walsh’s overall offensive strategy. The three-pointer played a major role in the Falcons’ historic championship run to five straight Northeastern Conference (NEC) titles and three state titles in a four-year span. Roberto was going to play a big part coming off the bench last year and the approach has not changed now with Giddings, a Walsh assistant, in charge.

Last year Roberto was a backup whose primary responsibility was to give the team an offensive punch with his three-point contributions. He came through often.

“I always felt comfortable shooting threes last year, especially after the Marblehead game,” Justin said. “Last year the coaches helped me improve by working on my footwork, getting my feet ready, keeping balanced, planted, before shooting; also in having the right spin, the right rotation, on the ball at release.”

Justin had not been happy with his three-point shooting this season until the Salem-Saugus-Winthrop package of games. He knew his shooting would eventually click at the level he wanted it too. He just didn’t know when. Then it happened like a explosion.

He shot 6-for-10 from threes and scored 29 points against Salem, a game lost  only by a miraculous 5-for-5 three-point shooting performance from Ethan Espinal in the final quarter, the last coming with 1.2 seconds left; a heartbreaker for the Falcons to endure.

He followed that with 6-for-12 treys in the team’s first win at Saugus, accounting for more than half of his 33, then had his sharpest three-point showing yet, 8-for-12 and 28 points in another tough defeat, this time at Winthrop.

“The coach has told me to shoot the ball whenever I’m open,” says Justin, “and that’s a big lift for me mentally. He says I need to be one of the team’s shooters, so let it fly.”

Justin has been inspired in his development as a three-point threat by Vinny Clifford, a key player during the Falcons’ championship runs who now plays for Endicott College. “Coach Walsh set up three-point shooting contests between Vinny – a great shooter — and me two years ago when I was a freshman. I learned some aspects of the shot from him and just loved watching him fire away his senior year when we won the state title. What confidence he had, like in that amazing win we had that year at Lynn English when he made seven or eight of them.”

This year Justin, a shortstop-pitcher on the powerhouse DHS baseball team (state runner-up the last two years), shoots a lot outside the games with the team’s other long range bomber, Sean Rooney. “We have little contests against each other, hopefully making each of us better shooters from behind the line,” says Justin.

“Justin is playing with more confidence and that includes driving to the basket,” adds Giddings. “That aggressiveness is helping him get more daylight for his outside shooting.Most important, he’s willing to do whatever is best for the team to have the best chance to win the game.”

Giddings devised shooting drills for Justin to work on in the fall, such as coming off screens,and dealing with hands in his face and those workouts have paid off, he says. “I’ve got stronger legs and you need those to get more power behind the shots and a quicker release,” says Justin, who going into the Revere game had scored doubles in every game but one.

He’s hoping his shooting talent can help carry the Falcons to a bunch of wins the next few weeks.

 

 

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