WINTHROP— Six months ago, the basketball court at the new Winthrop High gymnasium was named after Chris Tsiotos, a three-year varsity basketball player who finished his Vikings career with 1,003 points.
Friday night when the Vikings hosted Danvers at Tsiotos Court, it was Devin Pulsifer’s turn to join the list of Winthrop’s 1,000-point scorers. A senior guard for the Vikings boys team, Pulsifer came into the game needing 10 points to reach the milestone.
He did seven better, tallying 17 points and leading the Vikings to a 73-56 win over the Falcons. He became the 12th player in school history to reach the mark.
“I was psyched,” Pulsifer, a four-year varsity player, said. “It was crazy. I didn’t think I’d ever score 1,000 points. It’s wild and I never really expected it.”
The Vikings saw no shortage of scoring threats in Friday’s win, as David Diaz scored 16 points off the bench, Chrono Washington finished with 14 and Alex Dernier tallied 10. Elliot Frank scored eight points and Tayjuan McKenzie added seven.
“All in all, it was a good night,” Winthrop coach David Sacco said. “Going into these nights, when one of your players is 10 points away from 1,000, you don’t want to press too much. I talked to him before the game about being himself and letting the game come to him.”
Pulsifer didn’t have the hot hand in the first quarter, but his teammates did enough to back him up. With a slim 10-8 lead, McKenzie swished a 3-pointer and added a breakaway dunk on the next possession to boost Winthrop’s advantage to 15-8. The Vikings netted three 3-pointers in the quarter and led 18-11 after one.
“Devin went scoreless in the first quarter and I think that’s because we were pressing a little bit, which is natural,” Sacco said. “In the second quarter, he started to flow within the offense and stay within himself.”
Pulsifer caught fire in the second. A pair of baskets in the paint, a free throw and a 3-pointer gave him eight points with two more to go. With 3:30 on the clock, Pulsifer drew a foul and swished one of his two freebies. He cracked the mark with 1:59 left in the half when he missed a hook shot, corralled his own rebound and floated it in for the bucket.
“I was a little nervous but I just wanted to get the win,” Pulsifer said. “I knew that if I focused on getting the win, the points would just come. Danvers was running a triangle-two, but our guys stepped up and hit some shots to force them to get out of it. That created some easy shots for me.”
And while Pulsifer was cementing his legacy, Winthrop was running Danvers out of the gym. At the half, Winthrop led 48-31.
“It was one of the better halves, probably the best half we’ve played all year,” Sacco, who scored 1,331 points in his high school career at Pope John, said. “Danvers came out in a triangle-two, trying to take Devin and Tayjuan away. We work on that in practice, trying to get other guys involved and making sure we make shots. Alex and David stepped up and made their threes tonight.”
With the Vikings holding a sizable lead, the Falcons were forced to play catch-up for the second half. Danvers whittled the deficit down to 12 points behind a trio of 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, but that’s as close as the Falcons could get. Winthrop emptied its bench and the reserves maintained the lead for the 73-56 win.
With the victory, Winthrop improved to 3-5.
“Offensively, we’re starting to find our rhythm,” Sacco said. “We stress making that extra pass in practice. Our shot selection isn’t the greatest but we’re starting to see it come along where we’re making that extra pass and finding the open guy.
“Defensively, we’re starting to get it a little bit,” Sacco added. “It takes time to work on rotations. Every practice we’re getting better and every game we’re getting better. I’m happy with the progress.”
Now that Pulsifer has reached the milestone, the senior’s shifting his focus to leading the Vikings to a state tournament run.
“The bigger picture is we want to make a deeper run than we did last year in states,” Pulsifer said. “We lost in the second round. We’re looking to win a state title. This is a good feeling but the bigger picture is to have a winning season.”