DANVERS — Identifying an advantage in basketball is easy. The real challenge is finding a way to exploit that advantage.
It only took one quick look to see the difference in personnel while the Danvers and North Andover boys basketball teams warmed up for their Division 2 North quarterfinal yesterday afternoon. The Falcons — with 6-foot-9 center Peter Merry and 6-3 wide-body power forward Devan Harris — had a considerable edge in the post.
It took time against a scrappy North Andover defense, but eventually Danvers overpowered the Knights in the paint and slipped away for a 56-45 win.
The Falcons will now play the winner of tonight’s Salem/Belmont game in the semifinals on Wednesday (7 p.m.) at Beverly High.
Harris was the fire-breathing dragon that the Knights couldn’t slay. He repeatedly muscled his way to the rim, sometimes through a double-team, and made North Andover pay for fouling him. He connected on all 11 free throws he attempted and finished with 23 points and 18 rebounds.
“We knew going in their size was obviously going to be an issue for us,” North Andover (13-9) coach Paul Tanglis said. “I thought we fought hard. It was one of those things we had to play pretty much perfect D to stay with these guys and I thought we did for about three quarters.”
North Andover made it difficult for Danvers (19-3) to make entry passes into the post early, and the Knights shot the ball well in the first quarter, opening a 16-13 lead.
After surrendering three 3-pointers and 16 points to their guests, Danvers tightened up defensively. North Andover managed only 29 points over the final three quarters.
As the Falcons’ defense got stronger, they also started finding ways to pound the ball inside.
“We always have a lot of screens going on, so the pick and roll really helped,” Harris said. “Mark (McCarthy) always goes through on a flare screen and he always comes and gets my man. That always helps and always opens me up to get in front of my guy. That’s all I need, a little bit of space.”