GFA boys basketball claims third straight New England title
Prior to the 2012-2013 season, the Greens Farms Academy boys basketball team had no hardware in its trophy case. It hasn't stopped enjoying success since.
On Sunday afternoon at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., the Dragons prevailed in the New England Class C final for a third straight season by defeating Winchendon (Mass.) 64-53. The Dragons finished their season at 13-11 and with the same trophy they started the year defending.
"This one was powerful emotionally because we had such a torturous year," GFA coach Doug Scott said. "We were unlucky with some breaks, the injury bug and everything turned against us. There was even more weight on this (tournament) in terms of total redemption."
GFA had a 31-28 lead at halftime, and started the second half with a 13-6 run to get a double-digit lead. Djema left the game with a knee injury, forcing the Dragons to dig deep into their bench to finish off the win.
Unable to walk, Djema was lifted to center court to receive his MVP trophy by his teammates, according to Scott.
Winchendon forward Baris Ulker led all scorers with 19 points.
"Winchendon had five guys that could shoot better than anyone we had seen on film," Scott said. "We went man-to-man (on defense) and never helped on drives. That took away their shooters, but it does put a lot of pressure on the man defending the ball."
Adversity was the theme of this season as the Dragons lost multiple players to injury for stretches and went 3-6 in games decided by six pointers or fewer. The Dragons fell 86-77 to Brunswick in the FAA quarterfinals Feb. 25. GFA led by 16 points in that game, but Djema left the game with an injury and Baines fouled out for the only time in his high school career.
Once GFA reached the New England tournament, it peaked with three road wins in five days. After defeating Wheeler (Rhode Island) 75-62 on Wednesday, the Dragons took down top-seeded Pingree School (Mass.) 59-48 Saturday.
The small school will once again have to replace its stars, as Baines and Djema played their final games in Dragons colors Sunday. Baines will leave with a host of records, including the single-season shooting percentage (71) mark.
"The first one was great because we had never won it before," Scott said. "The second one was great because we had to replace three Division I players. This one is great because we underachieved so much."