For almost 20 years, the Salem High gym has been a place of doom for the Winthrop High boys basketball program. A generation of Viking hoop players have fallen victim to the Witches’ hex over the years in the form of a host of talented Salem basketball teams.
But in 2010, last Friday, January 15, to be precise, the Vikings finally broke the Salem spell and soundly trounced the Witches, 59-42.
“That was a huge win for us,” said WHS head coach Dave Brown. “We haven’t won up there for a long time, so that was quite an achievement for us.”
Jumpin’ Jake Connors enjoyed a monster game for the Vikings, hitting on 10 of 15 shots from the field on a variety of inside moves for a game high 22 points. Gavin Mahoney enjoyed a night of Crazy 8s (eight points and eight assists), while Will Milano, who sank three of four shots from the field, also hit for eight points. Jared Bingham added seven, Dino Mallios struck for six, and Mark Jenkins, who had been out of action for a while with an illness, chipped in with two points.
The contest started out as though the Salem hex would continue when Viking Michael Griffin went down with an ankle injury two minutes into the game, never to return.
However, these 2009-1010 Vikings combine a lot of experience and depth. Moreover, they play tough defense, as was evident by the 42 points to which they limited Salem, which is one of the highest scoring teams in the Northeastern Conference.
“Holding Salem to 42 points is a real tribute to the team’s defense and work ethic,” said Brown. “We played them tough all game and it really paid off.”
On the other hand, Sunday night’s contest against Lynn Tech of the Commonwealth Conference, which has been one of the most successful programs on the North Shore for the past decade, was anything but a defensive battle in the first half. Indeed, the Vikings found themselves trailing by a 41-30 margin at the intermission, yielding almost as many points in the opening 16 minutes as they had all game against Salem.
The chief culprit was a bombardment of three pointers by the Techies, who drained eight treys from beyond the arc in the opening half, a rate of a three pointer every two minutes.
However, the Vikings dug in from the outset of the second half and began to cut into the Tech lead. A nice Winthrop run of 8-0 at the end of the third period left the score tied at 53-53 entering the final eight minutes of play.
With the momentum now clearly on their side, the Vikings assumed control of the contest. However, Tech stayed close until Mahoney drained a trey as the shot clock was expiring with about a minute to go that boosted Winthrop into a seven point lead, from where they claimed the victory.
Mallios led the Winthrop scoring attack with 22 points and hauled in six rebounds. Mahoney pulled off a double double with 12 points and 11 assists, while Connors pumped in 14 points and grabbed five boards.
Jenkins hit for 12 points, Bingham chipped in with seven, and Milano added six.
Brown and his Vikings now stand at a lofty 11-1 on the season and already have punched their ticket for a Journey to the Tourney. Winthrop will host Revere Friday and then play next Sunday evening against Cathedral High of Boston at Emanuel College at 7:00.
Those games will set the stage for what promises to be the game of the year on the North Shore when the Vikings take on Lynn English, the top ranked team in Eastern Mass., next Tuesday evening at English.