By Cary Shuman
Dâ€™Amore stands tallÂ Â in the fourth quarter
Joe Dâ€™Amore is a 6-feet-3-inch junior forward for the Winthrop High boys basketball team. He is also a pitcher for the Viking baseball team.
But in eight thrilling minutes of state tournament basketball at its best and on its biggest stage, Dâ€™Amore forever cemented his legacy in Winthrop sports annals. Heâ€™s in the record books now alongside Todd Doherty and his 1995 teammates who saved their best for Boston (Garden) and for Cohasset as a matter of fact.
Dâ€™Amore scored 11 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to lead Winthrop to a 58-55 victory over Cohasset in the state championship game Tuesday at the TD Garden. His sizzling stretch of basketball including a trio of two-pointers, a three-pointer, and two free throws.
Coach Dave Brown knew Dâ€™Amore was capable, telling reporters after the game that he was one of the best athletes heâ€™s coached in his career. Dâ€™Amoreâ€™s teammates always believed in him despite the fact that he was hampered by a shoulder injury.
But Dâ€™Amore wasnâ€™t so sure himself.
â€œIf you told me that this was going to happen, I probably wouldnâ€™t have believed you,â€ Dâ€™Amore said humbly inside the media room at the TD Garden. â€œMy shoulder had been bothering me, but my adrenaline just took over.â€
Dâ€™Amore hurt his right shoulder after changing his pitching mechanics to compensate for an elbow injury. But there was no stopping him on this day against an excellent Cohasset team on the famous parquet floor.
â€œYou dream about moments like this,â€ said Dâ€™Amore. â€œItâ€™s just wild.â€
Dâ€™Amore was the Vikingsâ€™ sixth man for the latter part of the season and in the playoffs. When senior guard Taj Generazzo picked up his fourth foul (after drilling a clutch three-pointer moments earlier), with 28 seconds left in the third quarter, coach Brown called on Dâ€™Amore to contribute – and the rest is history.
Dâ€™Amore was excited to win it for the seniors especially.
â€œI love all these guys – I wouldnâ€™t trade them for anybody,â€ said Dâ€™Amore. â€œIt was our goal to win a state championship from the beginning of the year and I canâ€™t even describe this feeling. It was amazing playing in the Garden.â€
Dave Brown said the athletic Dâ€™Amore stepped up for the team when it needed a boost.
â€œNot too many people know about Joe Dâ€™Amore, but heâ€™s probably the most athletic kid Iâ€™ve coached in my 11 years in Winthrop,â€ said Brown. â€œThe kid is a tremendous athlete and doesnâ€™t know how good he actually could be if he keeps his mind strong, but he had a tremendous second half and heâ€™s playing with a shoulder injury. He made some big baskets late in the game.â€
Dale put it all together
Quinton Dale became a total basketball player this season under the day-to-day tutelage of coach Dave Brown and assistant coach Pancho Bingham.
The son of Quinton Dale, a Division 1 Northeastern University basketball standout, the 6-feet-3-inch junior put on a show throughout the State Tournament. His sky-touching left-handed block of a Cohasset playerâ€™s shot in the lane was highlight film stuff.
Dale became a force in the post season, averaging double figures in points and rebounds. He had 12 points in the Vikingsâ€™ win over Cohasset in the state championship game. Dale was the perfect complement to Anthony Hatzisavas in the frontcourt.
â€œI just decided to attack the basket hard,â€ said Dale, explaining his leap from starter to star in the post season. â€œI was confident and it feels great to win.â€
Dale credited the coaches for bringing out the best in the 2010-11 Vikings.
â€œWeâ€™ve always been a good defensive team but we started attacking the basket more than just being a shooting team and our defense actually got better which is impressive,â€ said Dale. â€œOur coaches did a great job not only in teaching us but in motivating us to be the best we could be. Coach Brown is an amazing coach. He gets on me at times but itâ€™s always worth it.â€
Dale was a reserve player on the varsity last season practicing hard for a chance in the future. â€œJoe [Dâ€™Amore] and I were the two younger kids on the team. We would give the older guys a good look and we learned a lot from them. They really helped out.â€
Dale knows about his fatherâ€™s rich legacy in the Northeastern Huskies hoop program.
â€œHeâ€™s my idol,â€ said Quinton. â€œEverything Iâ€™ve ever done is because of him. He and my mom [Sandy] are always there for me.â€
A preview of great things to come from Hatzisavas
Anthony Hatzisavas called winning the state basketball championship â€œthe best accomplishment Iâ€™ve ever had my whole life.â€
â€œI donâ€™t think Iâ€™ll ever have another feeling like this – knowing we got over the leap and I go out on top,â€ Hatzisavas told reporters after the game.
But there will be other great moments ahead for Anthony Hatzisavas, a top-notch athlete and team player who knew his role on this team and excelled at it. Heâ€™s 6-feet-3 and used his size and athleticism to be the Big Man the Vikings needed.
The determination and toughness he has shown in returning from a serious back injury are lessons for high school athletes who face adversity in their careers.
â€œThe back has been bothering me the whole year but I knew we could do this so I knew I had to go through it,â€ said Hatzisavas.
Hatzisavas scored a team-high 16 points in Winthropâ€™s 58-55 win over Cohasset. He was immense on the boards. He provided a dominating Barkley-esque physical presence in tournament wins over Mystic Valley, Georgetown, St. Maryâ€™s and Cohasset. His 22-point, 17-rebound performance versus Georgetown now grows in stature.
Hatzisavas said he â€œwent at itâ€ in the state final just like he does every game.
â€œI had to make sure I boxed out every time and went after loose ball and every rebound,â€ said Hatzisavas.
Hatzisavas showed his poise by swishing two key free throws in the final minute of the game. From the moment he returned to the lineup to the time the horn sounded Monday at the TD Garden and Winthrop fans erupted in celebration, Anthony Hatzisavas was in the middle of all the good things that were happening for coach Dave Brownâ€™s team.
And after four consecutive trips to the North final, he has a state title. Heâ€™s right. There is no better feeling right now.