SIX GRADE basketball winners are pictured: (front) Calvin Hoag, Cooper Anderson, David Palacios, Emry Vanderhoof, Christian Fogarty, Russell Gentile, Vincent Altieri; (middle) Francis Danielson, Max Stratford, Liam Votaw; (back); Conor Barrington, Coach Chris Danielson, Jackson Leonard, Coach Matt Stratford, Coach Paul Gentile
MELROSE—The Melrose 6th grade boys’ basketball team wrapped up a championship season on Sunday with a 51-26 win over Salem in the Cape Ann Division 2 playoffs. Melrose ended the year with a 24 wins and only 2 losses.
The team played the regular season in Division 3 and cruised to the regular season league title. Throughout the season, the coaches scheduled 6 additional games with higher division teams to test the boys under pressure, and ended the regular season with a 20-2 record. As a result of their regular season success, Cape Ann league officials moved the Melrose squad up to the Division 2 playoffs as the lowest seed. Coach Chris Danielson explained, “I don’t think the boys were phased at all by moving into the higher division for the playoffs. We scheduled games to test them throughout the season, and they knew they could play with anyone.”
The Melrose squad was ready for the challenge. Melrose opened the playoffs with a convincing 63-39 victory over #3 seeded Triton, sending a shockwave throughout the tournament. In the second round, Melrose faced the #2 seed, Hamilton-Wenham, and found themselves down 8-1 at the end of the first quarter. The boys didn’t fold, and kept working on the defensive end, limiting Hamilton-Wenham to 12 points over the next 3 quarters and pulling out the 29-20 victory. In the semifinals, Melrose again started slow on offense and found themselves down to #5 seeded Beverly at the end of the first quarter, by a score of 11-2. Melrose kept the defensive pressure on, pulled even by halftime, and pulled away late, moving on to the finals with a 50-42 victory.
In the finals, Melrose faced #4 seeded Salem. Salem was led by an imposing front court and a scrappy play-making guard. Once again, Melrose put the clamps on the opponents’ skilled players. For the first time in 3 games, Melrose got its offense pumping on all cylinders early, and cruised to a 51-26 championship victory. After the game, Coach Paul Gentile explained, “All year we preach hard-nosed defense, and unselfish offense. In numerous huddles throughout the season, we explained that close games come down to who wants it more. Our kids stepped up to the challenge, and confirmed that Defense wins Championships!”
The team was coached by Chris Danielson, Paul Gentile and Matt Stratford. In summarizing the season, Coach Stratford explained, “We opened up the first practice by explaining that practices aren’t designed for enjoyment. We knew these guys could shoot, but there’s more to the game than shooting. There’s fundamentals and defense. Our practices were tough, and that translated into success come game time. On the offensive end, we explained that our philosophy is five players on the floor functioning as one single unit: team, team, team – no one more important than the other.”