DANVERS, Mass. -– Two major keys to win any game, regardless of importance, are solid half court defense and converting from the free throw line.
No. 2 Danvers was able to do those two things much better than No. 10 North Andover, particularly in the fourth quarter as the Falcons topped North Andover, 56-45 before a packed house at the Danvers High field house in MIAA Division 2 North hoop action.
“That was huge. That’s huge when you get the free points,” Danvers coach John Walsh said.
Danvers led 39-38 entering the final quarter, but the home Falcons picked up their defensive intensity and limited North Andover to just seven points on just one field goal. They also went 10-for-14 from the free throw line to pull away from the pesky Scarlet Knights.
Overall, Danvers went 23-for-29 (80 percent) from the charity stripe, compared to 12-for-24 (50 percent) for North Andover.
“We’re limited with our size and we try and get things going from the outside, but it was tough with their big guys,” North Andover coach Paul Tanglis said. “They alter shots and take up a lot of space in there. It would’ve been nice to get something going from the outside and keep them honest on D, but we weren’t able to put together any offensive run in the second half.”
Danvers had a major size advantage over North Andover and after a slow start they were able to exploit it on both ends of the floor –- limiting the Scarlet Knights to just one shot offensively and getting easy baskets on the other end.
“We had an advantage, but we knew with their four guards it was going to be tough to get to that advantage,” Walsh said. “We knew if we played the game at half court it wouldn’t favor us, but eventually we got the ball down around the three point line and pounded it in and we were able to take advantage of that.”
The major height advantage led to Danvers junior Devan Harris having a tremendous game finishing with a game-high 23 points and 18 rebounds.
“He played hard today,” Walsh said. “He was a beast. I thought he played well.”
North Andover led 16-13 after the first quarter, but Danvers closed the half on a 7-0 run to take a 29-25 lead into the locker room at the half. The teams went back-and-forth in the third quarter as the Falcons held a one-point lead going into the fourth before pulling away.
“Despite the height advantage I thought our kids fought hard and we had to play pretty much perfect D to play with these guys and I thought we did for about three quarters,” Tanglis said. “We were scrappy, but they are a good team inside and outside. Eventually we went in a drought and couldn’t get anything going offensively, had a couple of turnovers. A good team like that it can get out of hand pretty quick.”
The visitors hit three 3-pointers in the first few minutes, but Danvers tightened up and only allowed two the rest of the game. Sophomore Wabissa Bede paced North Andover with 12 points, followed by junior Brett Daley with nine.
Aside from Harris, Danvers had two others reach double-figures in points with seniors Mark McCarthy and Kieran Beck finishing with 12 and 10 respectively.
Danvers will now face the winner of Salem/Belmont in the Division 2 North semi-finals.
NEW DIVISION, SAME RESULTS
After winning back-to-back state titles the past two years at the Division 3 level, the Falcons moved up to Division 2 this season and are having the same postseason success. Walsh attributes that to their conference – the Northeastern Conference as a major reason why.
“We’re in the Northeastern Conference and there are Divisions 1, 2, 3, 4. You prepare for this all the time,” Walsh said. “The Northeastern Conference is a war every night. In my opinion top to bottom it is the best league in the state this year so every night is a fight and it prepares you for this. Moving up, whoever they tell us to play we play and we go from there.”
The possibility of playing another NEC team in the semi-finals is something Walsh would certainly embrace.
“I would love it,” he said. “Not because I want to play Salem, but I have great respect for Tommy Doyle and this area. This area is awesome and it would just be great in my opinion.”