The Stoughton High boys' basketball team hung with Taunton, one of the top teams in the Hockomock League and in the state (ranked 20th in the latest ESPN Boston Boys' Basketbal Top 25 Poll), but fell 61-50 Tuesday at home as the Tigers pulled away in the fourth quarter, with the Black Knights dropping to 6-9 on the season.
Stoughton kept things close for most of the game, trailing 27-25 at the half. Midway through the third, Stoughton trailed 35-32 when Taunton went on a mini-run to take an eight-point lead with time winding down in the quarter. Mauro Oliveira hit a three-pointer, however, to make it a five-point game, with Stoughton behind 44-39 heading into the fourth.
But another Taunton run opened up the game for good, with the Tigers increasing their lead to 55-41 with just over three minutes left to play. A Corey Green three-pointer to put Taunton up by 10, 49-39, with 6:21 left, was the key play during this run.
Stoughton made things interesting, getting as close as 57-50 with 35.8 seconds left, but the Black Knights couldn't cap the improbable comeback.
Eddie Grant led Stoughton with 15 points, while Marcus Middleton added 14 points and 4 assists. Mauro Oliveira had 7 points, Joe Bunce-Grenon had 6 points, and Stanley Sajous added 3 points to go along with 7 rebounds.
"We told the kids in the locker room that we were very pleased with how they executed the game plan and how we worked hard on it for two days and were halfway through the third quarter in a one possession game with a top 20 team in the state," Stoughton coach John Gallivan said. "We were holding them to below their scoring average and the kids put themselves in a good place but unfortunately a couple of breaks didn't go our way."
"There are no moral victories in the Hockomock League," Gallivan added, "but you can build on a solid effort and tonight was a solid effort all around."
The Black Knights have dropped three straight since evening up their record at 6-6 after a Jan. 25 win against Sharon. Stoughton has remaining games at Foxbrough this Friday; home against Canton next Tuesday; and home against Oliver Ames next Friday, before ending the regular season with two games in the Walpole tournament over February vacation.
Stoughton still has a good chance to make the postseason, but with five games left, the room for error is almost non-existent.
The Black Knights need a minimum of 10 wins to go to the playoffs. So, Stoughton will need to do something it hasn't done all season in order to qualify - go at least 4-1 in a five game span to reach the 10-win plateau (this season, the team has put together a 3-2 stretch and a 4-2 stretch).
Gallivan is taking a one game at a time approach though.
"We don't need four wins, we need one because if you don't get one, you never get to two. So we need one and we need it Friday," Gallivan said.
"Ironically just like the last time we played Foxborough we were coming off a bad couple of games and the kids came out and played [Stoughton won 68-55]," Gallivan continued. "We know it's not going to be easy. It's a challenging place to play. We know they're a good team, they're a tournament team, and they're well coached and we have to come and play once and then see what happens."