Boston High School: Navardo Anderson

D3 EMass: Danvers 50, Martha's Vineyard 47

March, 13, 2013

BOSTON -- Experience is everything in big games, especially when one team is the defending state champions starting four seniors, and their opponent is returning just three total varsity players.

Danvers, the defending state champions, took advantage of their experience and defeated Martha’s Vineyard 50-47 in the MIAA Division 3 Eastern Mass. Championship Tuesday afternoon at TD Garden.

“It helps a lot,” Danvers head coach John Walsh said of his teams’ experience. “We start four seniors and they are very tough kids. It has nothing to do with our coaches -- we just have really tough kids.”

[+] EnlargeDanvers
Brendan Hall/ESPN BostonNick McKenna's late free throws sealed Danvers' close call over Martha's Vineyard, and advanced the Falcons to the D3 state title game for the second straight year.
The Falcons trailed 43-41 with 2:09 left, but went on a 7-0 over the next 1:57 to take a 48-45 lead over the Vineyard’s. A lot had to do with the inexperience of the Vineyarders, who turned the ball over a number of times on possessions down the stretch.

“Those last two, two and a half minutes, we got up two and had the ball, but then they felt the pressure a little bit,” said Vineyard coach Michael Joyce. “It was more going too fast than not making the play. They saw it there -- they just went too fast. That comes with experience, playing here and being at this kind of venue.”

With Danvers leading 48-45, Vineyard had the ball with 12.7 seconds left. Jack Roberts went the length of the court for an uncontested layup cutting the deficit to one, 48-47.

Vineyard then immediately fouled the Falcons’ Nick McKenna with 4.7 seconds left. The senior sprinted to the line and calmly sank both free throws, giving his team a 50-47 lead with 4.7 seconds to go. Vineyard’s Izak Browne had a deep look at three at the buzzer, but it missed giving Danvers its second EMass title in as many years.

“It was a crazy last minute, it felt like an hour,” McKenna said. “The last couple of free throws you just try and go through your routine and block out their seven bus loads of people. You just go through your routine and make shots like you always do.”

Of Danvers’ 12 points in the fourth quarter, eight of them came from the foul line. For the game the Falcons went 12-for-23, something Walsh was very disappointed in.

“Our free throw shooting was atrocious, I don’t even want to know what the numbers were,” he said.

Danvers struggled on the offensive boards in the first half as Vineyard’s size and skill got them plenty of second chance points. This was a point of emphasis at halftime.

“I told our kids from the beginning you have to box out, you can’t just turn and jump,” Walsh said. “We have athletes, but their front line is big. Holy cow.”

The Falcons turned things around in the second half, limiting Vineyard to just two offensive rebounds.

“We haven’t seen a team all year long with that size and athleticism,” McKenna said. “Coach’s halftime speech was ‘you got to rebound, you got to rebound.’

“He lit a fire under us and in the second half we really tightened it up defensively, especially on the rebounding end. We boxed out as much as we could because we knew we couldn’t out jump them like many other teams.”

Danvers jumped out to a 17-10 lead after one quarter, but Vineyard tied the game, 24-all at the half, led by Browne’s 12 second-quarter points.

For the game Browne led Vineyard with a game-high 17 points, while fellow senior Jack Roberts added 12 in the loss.

Danvers had very balanced scoring as usual, led by their seniors. Nick Bates led the way with 12, followed by McKenna who had 11 and Dan Connors added 10.

With the win Danvers moves on to defend their state championship Saturday afternoon at the DCU Center against Smith Academy.

It was something their team might not thought possible with some injuries the team has had to deal with over the course of the year.

“It’s amazing with all the injuries we’ve had,” McKenna said. “Eric (Martin) was out for awhile, I was sick early in the year. To fight through all that and get to this point, it’s an amazing thing to do.”

All is not lost for Martha’s Vineyard who finished the year 18-6 and was the No.7 seed in the Division 2 South bracket. Returning only three varsity players, and making it to the EMass final is something Joyce is very proud of, especially seeing his team grow throughout the season.

“We only had three returning players from last year’s varsity team on the team this year,” said Joyce. “There were nine new faces and we started off playing like that this year. The first five or six games we were definitely shaky and no one knew how to play with each other. As the season went on they grew how to play with each other and became unselfish and then in the tournament we started to play really well obviously.”

Vineyard got tremendous fan support with seven fan busses making the trip to TD Garden, not including the parents and other adults who made the trip.

“It was a great showing by the Island community,” Joyce said. “They really got behind the kids and supported them. It’s been great and each game we got more and more people. It’s been a blast. I think that is something the kids will keep with them after...They will start to realize it was a pretty neat year.”

For Vineyard, getting to the Garden is something to build on as they accomplished something they hadn’t done in over 30 years.

“This run was certainly something special,” said Joyce. “We hadn’t been to the Garden in 33 or 34 years. Certainly it would have been nice to win one more and get a chance to play for the state title, but that is part of getting the kids used to this type of situation. Danvers played like they had been here before – their calmness and patience in the fourth quarter.”

D3 South: Martha's Vineyard 77, Wareham 71

March, 9, 2013
BOSTON -— Everything was different for Martha’s Vineyard one calendar year from its last visit to UMass-Boston.

The sleeping arrangements were different, as the Vineyarders spent the night in Boston off the island.

The team was different, only one returning starter and a number of seniors making their first varsity experiences. But more importantly the result was different, as Martha’s Vineyard will return to the Garden for the first time since 1977 after a 77-71 victory over top-seeded Wareham (22-2) yesterday at the Clark Athletic Center.

Navardo Anderson scored 11 points, including several big buckets in transition in the closing moments of the game and Izak Browne paced the Vineyarders (18-5) with 17 points.

“Last year’s senior class and this year’s senior class were both pretty big and deep,” said Vineyarders head coach Michael Joyce. “I had a large number of juniors on JV that came up. Even though they are seniors they don’t have the experience of it. Some of them were here at the game (last year) and some of them were on the bench and I think a little bit of the awe was worn of and they could play.”

Anderson is one of those seniors who watched Darien Fernandez (23 points, more on him later) torch the Vineyarders and take away a trip to the Garden off the court. The 6-foot-2 forward made sure to change the fortunes of that. After playing a little tentative early in the game, Anderson loosened up with 10 points in the second half. He was extremely crucial in the final push for the Vineyarders with seven points down the stretch.

His putback on his own miss put his team up 71-69 with 2:30 left in the game, and after a scrambled possession by the Vikings, he took the ball the other way and flushed the convincing exclamation point to pull away at the end.

“He came into his own in that second half,” Joyce said of Anderson. “Once the play got flowing a little bit. He made those free throws in the fourth quarter which were huge for us. For him that was a big step.”

Anderson is new to the game of basketball and has only been playing organized hoops for three years, but he possess the length needed at the two or the three. Once he tapped into that in this game, the nerves shook off.

“I just got to the point where this game was getting too close, we can’t lose this lead,” said Anderson.

Staying in front of Fernandez for an entire game is easier said than done, and Joyce knew that. He switched form a usual man defense to a variation of zones, from the 1-3-1 to the 2-3, just to throw different looks at Fernandez.

The talented Fernandez was shadowed by the Vineyarders’s guards for most of the night and he was forced into some tough outside shots, some forced, for most of the first half. He was still able to post a game-high 23 points, but it took his 24 shots to do so.

“It’s pretty much impossible,” Joyce said of guarding Fernandez. “Typically we play man, full almost all the time and we knew that was an impossibility with him on the court. One guy can’t stay in front of him. Our goal was to have one guy pressure him outside and not give up the 3s, and just basidcally trade them off. The other guard would fill the spot and the next guy would try to slow him down for the layup.”

Added Fernandez: “They are longer and probably more athletic too. They are long, so they were in my passing lane.”

This ends the career of one of the more gifted scorer’s in the state during the past four years, and Kevin Brogioli wished he could have him for a few more.

“You don’t get players like Darien to come around too often in your career,” said Brogioli. “He’s a great a talent and he’s going to be missed for sure.”