By Matt Jenkins
---- — BEVERLY — No matter who the opponent, there is always an advantage that the Danvers High boys basketball team has late in games.
It’s a calm confidence that has developed through the Falcons’ recent postseason domination — and it was on display last night at Henry Cabot Lodge Fieldhouse.
Behind a monster game from junior forward Devan Harris, the Falcons survived a major scare from Belmont, winning 62-59 in a Division 2 North semifinal.
The Falcons will play for the North title for the third consecutive year Saturday (time TBA) at Lowell’s Tsongas Center against the winner of tonight’s Lynn Classical/New Mission game.
Danvers, which has now won 14 straight postseason games, owes a lot to Harris, who simply couldn’t be stopped under the basket. The bruising power forward tied a career-high with 35 points and grabbed 20 rebounds, 12 on the offensive end.
“We tried to run as much as possible and hopefully you run somebody up and down so fast that maybe they’re not going to be as aggressive on the boards,” Belmont (18-7) coach Adam Pritchard said about Harris. “Obviously, he’s a terrific high school basketball player. Especially when you have a physical advantage like that in high school, it really shows up.”
Harris took advantage of Danvers’ set plays to find space in its halfcourt offense and he muscled his way under the basket when a teammate took a shot. He had 13 points in the decisive fourth quarter, scoring eight straight during a five-minute stretch.
He had two big hoops during Danvers’ six-point run that trimmed a Belmont seven-point lead to one, 50-49, with 6:22 to go.
“It was tough, but we felt the adrenaline going at the end of the game and we really wanted it,” said Harris, a transfer from Hingham. “We absolutely believe in one another; we believe we’re gonna get the job done and that’s what we did tonight.”
Things didn’t look promising for Danvers (19-2) when Keith Burns buried a 3-pointer with 52 seconds to play. That gave Belmont a 59-58 lead and Danvers couldn’t convert on its next possession.
But a steal by freshman Devon Allen on the defensive end gave the Falcons new life and Kieran Beck hit both ends of a 1-and-1 with 23 seconds left. Harris and Allen each made one free throw in the clutch, Harris knocking one down with 12 seconds left and Allen converting with 1.4 seconds left.
Belmont’s last-ditch effort was thwarted when Beck stole the long in-bounds pass.
“I know it sounds strange but Allen was like the second MVP for us,” Walsh said of his freshman, who only finished with one point but made several solid defensive plays including two steals down the stretch.
“Kieran is so versatile. He was covering (Belmont center) Adam Kleckner to start the game and took a charge on him for his fourth foul (in the third quarter). Then he switched to cover their point guard.”
Kleckner, who scored 21 points in Belmont’s win over Salem in the quarters, was held to just six points before fouling out late in the third quarter.
“Once we fouled out their big guy, the glass was open,” Harris said. “You just have to want it more, that’s all. You have to want the boards more.”
Beck finished with 10 points, as did Danvers junior 6-foot-9 center Peter Merry. Merry also had eight blocks, six in the first half.
Burns led Belmont with 14, Ben Lazenby chipped in 12, and Matt Kerans had 11.
Danvers now gets a chance to play for the Div. 2 North crown after capturing the title in Div. 3 the last two years.
“It means the world to us,” Harris said. “I know these guys have been there before, but I haven’t. It’s going to be a new experience for me.”
Danvers 62, Belmont 59
Belmont: Burns 4-2-14, Lazenby 4-2-12, Wagner 3-0-6, Kleckner 3-0-6, Hinton 2-0-4, Kerans 4-2-11, Croce 3-0-6. Totals 23-6-59.
Danvers: Merry 5-0-10, Harris 14-7-35, Beck 2-5-10, Francois 1-4-6, Allen 0-1-1, McCarthy 0-0-0. Totals 22-17-62.
Halftime: D, 29-28.
3-pointers: B, Burns 4, Lazenby 2, Kerans; D, Beck.
Records: B, 18-7; D, 19-2