BEVERLY — North Andover coach Paul Tanglis planned for nights like this.
Long scoring droughts, like the one his Knights went through in the third quarter, not scoring for nearly four minutes. They saw a 37-32 lead turn into a 42-37 deficit.
Soon after defense kicked in — turning seven fourth quarter steals into 15 points — en route to a big 68-57 win over No. 7 Beverly in the first round of the Division 2 North Sectionals.
“We practice it every day, fourth quarter defense,” said the Knights’ No. 1 star, John Enright, who had 18 points and two of those fourth quarter steals. “We take pride in being in better shape in the fourth quarter. We just weren’t going to give up. No way.”
In fact, No. 10 North Andover’s first half offense and defense were Grade A as the Knights built a 28-12 lead in the packed Henry Cabot Lodge Field House. But Beverly, behind seniors Jonathan Berchoff and Nick Cross, who averaged a combined 36 points a game in the regular season, roared back to close it to 32-26 at the half.
Beverly surged ahead 42-37 on an end-to-end three-point play by Berchoff to send the Panthers crowd into a frenzy.
But North Andover took back control of the game early in the third quarter with steals on three straight possessions, leading to layups by Enright, Brett Daley and Kyle White (eight points, five steals) for a 49-46 lead.
Beverly eventually tied it at 52-52, but the Knights ran off 14 straight points, Enright, Wabissa Bede, Daley and White all scoring to close out the hosts.
“It happened so fast,” Beverly coach Scott Lewis said about the game’s final few minutes. “We only had one timeout left and that was part of the issue. They got a little run with two steals and quick transition baskets. The game came down to those three minutes.”
Tanglis was also thankful that North Andover plays in the Merrimack Valley Conference, which means you get at least 10 of these kinds of games every winter. There have been many years when North Andover entered the state tourney with one, two or three losses as a member of the Cape Ann League only to lose early in the state tournament.
Now at 13-8, the Knights believe they are a threat in the Division 2 North bracket. “When you play the Andovers and Centrals you are prepared for games like this,” said Tanglis.
Enright concurred, saying with a big smile “Our league is the best in the state!”
North Andover plays the winner of tonight’s Danvers-Marblehead game. That will likely be Saturday.
North Andover 68, Beverly 57
North Andover: White 3-1-8, Bede 5-1-13, Daley 2-2-6, Enright 6-3-18, Couyoumjian 4-0-9, Reeve 4-1-9, Testa 2-1-5. Totals 26-9-68.
Beverly: Sinclair 3-1-8, Berchoff 9-4-23, Cross 3-2-10, Traicoff 4-0-10, Franco 3-0-6, Coughlin 0-0-0, Cairns 0-0-0, Duguid 0-0-0. Totals 22-7-57.
Halftime: NA, 32-26.
3-pointers: NA, Enright 3, Bede 2, White, Couyoumijian; B, Cross 2, Traicoff 2, Sinclair, Berchoff.
Records: NA, 13-8; B, 15-8.