George Merry's two-handed slam with less than a minute to play solidified Danvers's 59-47 win over St. Joseph Central in the Division 3 boys' basketball state championship at the DCU Center in Worcester Saturday.
It was Danvers's first state championship.
“I can’t even explain it because words wouldn’t do it any justice,” said Danvers coach John Walsh. “All year we thought we had the ability to get to this point, but we didn’t know what was going to happen and a lot of things fortunately went our way. I can’t describe it.”
The 6-foot-7 Merry, a senior team captain, dropped seven points and blocked three shots in the first quarter as Danvers took a 13-9 lead. St. Joseph battled back to lead by one at the half, 25-24, thanks to a strong second quarter by junior guard Mike Carpenter, who came off the bench to score seven points.
St. Joseph's Mike McMahon, who is 6-5, held Merry scoreless in the second quarter.
“In a way, I was really able to do a couple of moves on them, but then they really figured out how to defend me and really played lockdown defense,” said Merry, who finished with 11 points and 6 blocks. “So I tried to do everything I could to secure the ball, and find places to score, but they played really well and I couldn’t get a shot off without someone being all over me.”
St. Joseph Cathedral put Danvers in a six-point hole with less than two minutes to play in the third, but Danvers had been in similar situations all season. Three free throws by junior guard Nick McKenna (18 points, 15 in the second half) sparked a 7-0 run to help Danvers take a 38-37 lead after three.“We couldn’t score and the game that was a one- or two-possession game went to a five- to six-possession game,” said Danvers coach Paul Brindle. “It’s tough to come back in a state championship game against a team like that because they’re long and well-coached.”
McKenna, who was sidelined by a shoulder injury earlier this season, scored 10 of Danvers's 21 points in the fourth quarter to help seal the victory.
“Nick missed last year because of knee surgery and this year a little because of the shoulder, but everyone is only seeing him come to his peak,” said Walsh.
“At the half, coach told us that is was on the Nicks (Bates, McKenna) to generate the offense,” said McKenna. “Once you get a couple going in a big game like this, it starts to flow. It's such an amazing feeling right now.”
Danvers (21-4) recorded its first 20-plus win season in program history.
“I’m so proud of the kids,” said Walsh. “They persevered all year, had a target on their backs from day one, put in the work, and I’m so happy for the kids that they can now go out and celebrate.”
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