Although Viking basketball fans knew it was just an inevitable formality, the Winthrop High boys basketball team officially clinched an outright South Division title of the Northeastern Conference with a 63-52 triumph over Swampscott last Friday.
The final score was by no means an indication of the ease with which the Vikings handled the Big Blue. Coach Dave Brown’s quintet wasted no time in assuring that this would be a night for a South Division victory party as they sprinted to a 20-0 lead to start the game. Only a three point field goal by Swampscott in the final minute of the period prevented a goose egg on the scoreboard at the first buzzer.
"We played some really strong defense," said Brown, in what surely must rate as a Bill Belichick-worthy understatement.
The Vikings continued to build their lead through the first half and into the third period, by which time Brown liberally began to use all hands on deck. With the Winthrop lead standing at 25 points by the end of the third quarter, the contest was never in doubt.
Jared Bingham led the Viking scoring parade with 17 points, while Dino Mallios chipped in with 15 and Mark Jenkins reached double figures with 10 points.
Danvers was the next NEC rival to face the Winthrop buzzsaw and the 58-39 final score once again was not indicative of Winthrop’s total dominance from the outset.
Mallios poured in all 18 of his points in the first half as the Vikings breezed into the locker room at the intermission with a 36-16 advantage. Dino, who also pulled down eight rebounds and dished eight assists, was high man on the Viking point chart, followed by Jenkins with 14, Jake Connors (who suffered a sprained wrist in the Swampscott game) with 10, Bingham with nine, and Gavin Mahoney with eight.
Winthrop now stands at a lofty 17-2 and is playing out the rest of the season with the goal of achieving as high a seed as possible for the state tournament.
"If at the beginning of the season, you would have told me that we would be without Anthony Hatzisavas (the Winthrop big man who has been sidelined with a football related back injury) and Michael Griffin (ankle injury) for most of the season and still be17-2, I would have been very surprised," said Brown. "This team has done a remarkable job."
Winthrop has three games left on its schedule, starting with Malden last night (Wednesday). Gloucester comes to town Friday for what promises to be a nostalgic and memorable Senior Night and the curtain comes down on the regular season next Tuesday at Saugus.