Led by Joe Bunce-Grenon's 23 points and 16 rebounds, the Stoughton High boys' basketball team built a double-digit lead and held on for a 61-55 victory over Canton Wednesday at home.
With the win, Stoughton improves to 8-9, needing two wins in its final three regular season games to qualify for the state tournament. Canton falls to 6-11.
With Stoughton trailing 16-15 after a Sam Larson two-pointer midway through the second quarter, Bunce-Grenon took over the game for the remainder of the half, scoring 10 points in the final 3:35 of the second.
The senior captain ripped off eight straight points, including back-to-back three pointers, to turn a one-point deficit into a 23-16 Stoughton lead. Mauro Oliveira hit a three to extend the lead, and after Canton snapped Stoughton's 11-0 run, Bunce-Grenon ended the half with a two-pointer to give the Black Knights a 10-point lead, 28-18, at halftime.
"I just felt he was really aggressive going to get the ball," Stoughton coach John Gallivan said of Bunce-Grenon's performance. "It wasn't even the shooting, it was the 9 rebounds that really thrilled me at halftime. There are some games where as a team we don't have nine at halftime.
"We like Joe to be aggressive and I think maybe a switch got flipped in that fourth quarter the other night in Foxborough [a 78-70 overtime win]. He was really a difference maker. He didn't get a lot of baskets but he controlled the whole tempo of the game and tonight [vs. Canton] we needed points from him because who knows if it was a five day layoff from a blizzard or what, but we had trouble putting the ball in the basket at times and when a kid like that throws in 23 it's huge; it goes a long way."
Stoughton extended the lead to 13 points, 42-29, following another 3-pointer from Oliveira with 2:19 to go in the third quarter.
Canton didn't go away though. The Bulldogs twice cut the Stoughton lead to five points midway through the fourth quarter.
A pair of free throws from Larson made it a 52-47 game with 4:03 left in the fourth. Then Bunce-Grenon helped to end the Canton comeback. After Eddie Grant hit two free throws of his own to make it a seven-point game, Bunce-Grenon had a one-handed dunk, followed by a layup from Marcus Middleton, which pushed the Stoughton lead to 58-47 with 2:22 to play.
One of the keys to Stoughton's victory was the Black Knights defense on Larson, one of the Hockomock League's top scoring threats. While the junior forward finished with 14 points, 8 of those came in the fourth quarter. He was limited to just four field goals on the night.
"To hold [Larson] to six over three quarters is terrific," Gallivan said. "Mike Gallagher gets all the credit in the world. He must be exhausted."
Tristin Mullen had 17 points for Canton and Matt Kelley led the Bulldogs with 18.
"It was one of those nights where [Kelley] was hitting his shots and they did a really good job guarding our best player Larson, who is our leading scorer - he's the fourth leading scorer in the league - so we needed someone else to step up and Kelley got a lot more touches than he normally would and he did a good job with it. He executed," Canton coach Ryan Gordy said.
In addition to his 23 points and 16 rebounds, Bunce-Grenon also had 3 steals. Stanley Sajous had 6 rebounds; Oliveira had 11 points; Grant had 10 points; and Middleton added 10 points to go along with 3 assists and 2 steals.
Middleton is 34 points away from joining the school's 1,000-point club. It is likely Middleton will reach the milestone at the two-game Walpole Tournament over February vacation to end the regular season.
But before the Walpole Tournament, Stoughton has a crucial matchup with Oliver Ames Friday at 6:30 p.m. It's Stoughton's senior night and the Black Knights will be looking to get one step closer to clinching a tournament berth.
Meanwhile, Canton will host Foxborough, also on Friday.