The MIAA released its postseason state tournament brackets on Friday, and for this first time since this year's group of seniors were in fifth grade, the Stoughton High boys' basketball team did not make the cut.
Yet, they were still the team nobody wanted to face.
9-11 is the one record no team wants to finish with. It leaves teams wondering what they could of done differently in one game, one quarter, one possession in order to get to that magic number of 10 wins and a chance to play in the tournament.
Stoughton finished the season with just that, a 9-11 record, and will miss the tournament for the first time since the 2005-2006 season.
Going into the 2012-2013 Stoughton High boys' basketball season, nobody knew how this team would perform. A year removed from being crowned Division 2 South Sectional Champions which included playing at the TD Garden for a chance to go to the state championship game, this team - despite loosing key seniors Antonio Ferreira, Steffan Jackson and Raymond Bowdre, as well as standout junior Aaron Calixte, who decided to take his talents to Lee Academy prep school - never doubted themselves in their journey to a berth in the MIAA state tournament.
Along the way their was plenty of bickering, name calling, and heated arguments about whether someone should of taken a particular shot or about a bad foul but who said brothers never fight?
That's exactly what this team was, a group of brothers, who despite the adversity and tough times stuck together and never lost faith in each other. Somehow this group of Knights even after a tough loss were able to crack a joke and get ready for the next game, never throwing a teammate under the bus after an off game.
The foundation of this family was the coaching staff.
Head coach John Gallivan and assistant coach Steve Goulston always encouraged and challenged their team to be the best players and human beings they could be. Never after a win or a loss did they get to high or to low, and along with the players never gave up hope in their team. These two individuals are the definition of what a high school basketball coach should be.
First year assistant coach and former Stoughton 1,000 point scorer Evan Taylor brought along a never ending supply of basketball knowledge and strategy and if he decides to continue coaching should one day be an elite high school basketball coach.
Preparation is huge in basketball. Knowing your opponent's game inside and out is something that gives any team a huge advantage before the game even begins. Thanks to coach Steve Woodruff (also the program's freshmen coach), Stoughton had to have what was one of the best scouting reports in the state. Not only coming in to a game did Stoughton know whether each opponent was a shooter or liked to take the ball to a hoop, but with all the detail Woodruff put in to each report one would practically know what their opponents favorite color was and what he had for breakfast that morning.
One could never forget about the Director of Basketball Operations Melanie Ingrao. To an outsider, Ingrao takes detailed stats taking down every rebound, assist, turnover, steal and shot taken throughout a game. But, to the Knights she is so much more than that. Ingrao is always there to lend a hand to the team in whatever way possible. Through Ingrao's tenure she has kept the ship running smooth for Stoughton basketball, while consuming a few hundred packs of Starbursts along the way.
Junior Varsity coaches Joe Powers and Joe Powers Jr. are a crucial part of the development of future varsity players. The Powers' have basketball minds like no others. It is often forgotten how important the Junior Varsity coaches can be to the future success of the Varsity teams.
This season's trio of captains were three players who have been here for what has been one of the best periods of four years in Stoughton basketball history.
Marcus Middleton scored his 1,000th point on Feb. 17 against Boston Latin. Middleton finished his career with 1,026 points becoming the third player in three years (Kris Joyce in 2010-2011 and Aaron Calixte 2011-2012) to accomplish the feat for Stoughton.
Middleton throughout his four years on varsity has been known as a defensive player and has always had the task of shutting down the opponent's best player. This year when asked to have an even bigger leadership role Middleton never gave an inch and stepped up to the plate doing whatever he could for his team.
Joe Bunce-Grenon stepped up and had a career year for Stoughton. Stoughton needed someone to pick up the scoring in Calixte's absence and Bunce-Grenon certainly helped do that for the Knights. When healthy, Joe "BG" was a viable scoring threat either shooting the three or throwing down a monster dunk. No matter if Stoughton won or loss Bunce-Grenon had an infectious smile that in a sense let his team know that everything will be okay.
Mauro Oliveira stepped up his game tremendously this year. Oliveira became one of the most dangerous shooters in the league, making three's from way beyond the line. Oliveira despite his quiet and serious demeanor on the court could make anybody laugh with his pregame antics, which helped relax those pregame nerves anybody might of had.
Stoughton may not have made it to the brink of the postseason if it wasn't for the other role players on this team as well.
Senior Eddie Grant was the unsung hero down the stretch for Stoughton. Grant loved pressure and always wanted the ball in his hand at the end of the game, shown on Feb. 8 when Grant scored 11 points in overtime in a must win game against Foxborough.
Senior Andrew Valle's three-point shooting saved the day against Canton on Jan. 11 as he entered the game with 30 seconds remaining in the third and hit two three's between the end of the third and beginning of the fourth which gave Stoughton huge momentum in the fourth quarter in a game they needed to have.
Senior Matt Mack was the kind of player every coach wants on his team. Mack always listened and had the utmost respect for every coach and player in the program. Mack was a defensive player who could step into the game whenever needed and play lockdown defense and would always hustle harder than anyone on the floor. Mack was always the first one to dive to the floor for a loose ball and then would get right back up and be the first one back on defense.
Senior Aaron Mack was out for the season due to injury but never missed a game and kept his spirits high, always cheering his teammates on from the bench, something deeply appreciated by the team.
Juniors Mike Gallagher, Stanley Sajous, and Joey Wilder were all key players this year who will try and bring their team back to the postseason next year.
Gallagher had huge shoes to fill as he started the season as the next starting point guard after Calixte. Gallagher, a great defensive player who could score in bunches, always stuck to his game and proved to be huge for Stoughton this season.
Sajous was a versatile player this season for Stoughton. Sajous could go to the hoop, shoot the ball, grab rebounds and play good defense. Going into next year Sajous is a player many look to see a huge breakout year from, after providing Stoughton with a sense of reliability every time on the floor this year.
Wilder continued to improve his game as a low-post presence this season. Wilder was a solid rebounder who has a great arsenal of post moves that combined with his strength will be one of the first options for Stoughton going into next year.
Junior Naadir Claudio, a player who can score and is always willing to give up his body to take a charge, will also be big for Stoughton next season.
Despite the team sometimes either having a let down quarter, or losing a lead late in the game, this season was certainly not a failure.
Although the Knights are not in the postseason, anyone who was lucky enough to be associated with this year's team is coming out of the season as a better person for being able to be around this family, with a bag full of memories to take with them.
Josh Brown served as team manager for the Stoughton High boys' basketball team for the past two seasons. A senior at Stoughton High, he is a contributor to Stoughton Patch.