Postseason Primer: Stoughton High, OA Boys’ Basketball—Round 3
The Stoughton High boys’ basketball team (18-4) takes on Oliver Ames (14-8) in a MIAA Division 2 South Sectional semifinal tournament game.
For the fifth time in seven seasons, the Stoughton and Oliver Ames boys’ basketball teams will meet in the postseason. This year a trip to the sectional finals will be on the line.
The Black Knights and Tigers will square off Tuesday, March 6 at 7 p.m. at Brockton High in a Division 2 South Sectional semifinal game. Stoughton and OA split their previous two meetings in the regular season, with each school defending its home court.
The winner of this sectional semifinal game will advance to play the winner of the other D2 South semifinal matchup between Hopkinton and Wellesley. The loser will have its season ended by a bitter Hockomock League rival.
How they got here:
Stoughton – The Black Knights earned the #4 seed after finishing the regular season 16-4. In the opening round, Stoughton hosted Duxbury. Trailing by eight points midway through the fourth quarter, the Black Knights came back to defeat #13 Duxbury, 69-63. Aaron Calixte scored 13 of his game-high 31 points in the fourth quarter, showing why he is one of the best players in the Hockomock. Marcus Middleton paced the team on defense.
In the quarterfinal round, an alley-oop dunk followed by a block on the other end of the court from Antonio Ferreira with two minutes left gave Stoughton the big momentum boost it needed to hold off a tenacious Norwood team, the #12 seed, 55-48.
Oliver Ames – The Tigers have been road warriors so far this tournament season. After drawing a 9 seed, they traveled to #8 Somerset-Berkley and out-battled the Blue Raiders en route to a 65-43 first round win. A 14-0 run to start the game set the tone for OA, and center Jeff Babbit’s 11 points helped supplement point guard Nick Bruha’s 15 tallies.
OA was rewarded with a trip to Cape Cod to play #1 Falmouth in the quarterfinals. Guard St. Claire Ryan took the reins, scoring a game-high 20 points and leading the Tigers to a 65-48 upset victory in what coach Don Byron called the “best played game” by any team he has led since coming to Shovel Town.
Stoughton – Calixte is an explosive scorer. He joined Stoughton's 1,000-point club as a junior. Calixte can also pass and rebound. Middleton is a lockdown defender, often drawing the assignment of guarding the other team’s best player. He can score in bunches on the other end of the floor as well. Together, Calixte and Middleton form one of the top (if not the top) backcourts in Division 2 South.
Mauro Oliveira and Joe Bunce-Grenon provide athleticism and depth. Sophomore Mike Gallagher has also seen his minutes increase.
At the forward position, the 6’3 Ferreira can block shots and jump like he’s 6’6. Raymond Bowdre can rebound and is a scoring threat in the paint. Joey Wilder adds depth.
Steffan Jackson returning to the lineup after sustaining an injury against OA in February has been key. The senior can hit the outside shot and can rebound.
Oliver Ames – Like the Black Knights, the Tigers are led by its captains in the backcourt. Bruha, a senior guard, is the school’s newest member to the 1,000 point club, but his ability to control the game and distribute the ball from the point guard position have been keys to OA’s success so far in the tournament. Junior guard Andrew Reardon, like Bruha, is a triple threat from the wing, with an ability to beat defenders off the dribble, with his jump shot, or by finding open players.
A cast of players like Babbitt at center, Ryan at guard and forward Denzel Bennett have out-hustled competition so far in the tournament. The 6-3 Babbitt, a true big man, anchors OA under the basket while Bennett and Ryan have fought for rebounds, played solid defense, and out-muscled defenders for points in the paint.
Off of the bench, sophomore forward Nick Cidado and senior forward John Moroney have platooned in a sixth-man-type role that has been vital in the postseason. Last week against Falmouth, Moroney’s three 3-pointers sparked the Tigers in a 26-9 second quarter run that set the tone for the rest of the game.
Hello, we meet again
Postseason meetings are becoming something of the norm between these two basketball teams. Since 2005, Stoughton and OA are 2-2 head-to-head in the tournament, with Stoughton winning the last two.
This regular season, the teams split their two meetings, with the Black Knights winning 63-44 at home on January 6 and Oliver Ames winning 75-67 in Easton on February 7. The win snapped OA’s four game losing streak to Stoughton, which dated back to the 2009-2010 season.
“When you play a team a third time, if you’ve split with them it almost makes sense. It kind of is the rubber match. Both teams need to figure out who won this year and clearly when it’s an elimination game, everyone is going to be up for it,” Stoughton head coach John Gallivan said.
OA Coach Don Byron added:
“I think early on we were starting to develop team chemistry. We got down a couple of times and they got a couple of spurts, so we didn’t handle it very well. Offensively we did some things decision-wise that we would have wanted back.
“The second time, I thought we just played very, very well. We had a couple of kids that had career games the night we played them. The change in venue to here obviously helped us a little bit. Having 85 percent of the people here on our side helps for a high school kid.
“It’s the typical Hockomock deal. If you don’t play well you don’t win. You can’t look at their talent and our talent and decide that we’re more talented than these guys or they’re more talented. You have to go out and play every minute.”
The hype surrounding this game has been everything you could expect and then some from two rival schools meeting this late in the postseason. Students from both schools have traded barbs on social media sites like Twitter. Expect hundreds to flock to Brockton to support their team Tuesday night.
“At some point on Tuesday it will become a game and the hysteria and the buildup and the nerves and all that—it just becomes a 32-minute basketball game,” Gallivan said.
Keys to victory
Both teams are tournament-tested and have plenty of tournament experience.
If OA uses a box-and-one defense to defend Calixte, which puts man-to-man coverage on one player with a four-man zone waiting to help contain this player, how does Stoughton adjust? The best remedy is to shoot well and for the players without the ball to be able to move around the court.
Can OA keep up with Stoughton’s athleticism? How does the return of Steffan Jackson, who barely played in the February 7 game, impact play?
How will both teams handle what should be a raucous atmosphere in Brockton?
“We’ll basically try to contain the guards as much as we can and basically try to take one facet of the game away and try to take them out of their transition game a little bit. We worked on that a couple of days and hopefully that shows,” Byron said.
“We know these kids and they know us, and one team is going to execute better than the other and that team will probably win the game,” Gallivan said.
“You see as each game goes on how much higher the stage becomes. It’s always interesting to see who shrinks from the bright lights and who embraces it and plays well.”
Can’t make it to the game? Follow along with our live blog.