Check out a postgame video interview with senior captains Mackenzie McGrath, Emma Zuk and Nicole Daniels in the media gallery of this article.
Playing lockdown defense from the opening tip, it took about a quarter for the Stoughton High girls' basketball team to find its rhythm on offense, but once the Black Knights found their shooting touch, visiting Stoughton opened up the game and beat host Plymouth South 42-35 Wednesday night in a first round game of the MIAA Division 1 South Sectional Tournament.
Stoughton, the 10th seed, improves to 14-7 and advances to play #2 Braintree (21-2) Friday night on the road. Braintree beat #18 Quincy 69-24 Wednesday night. Meanwhile, Plymouth South, the 7th seed, ends its season at 14-7.
"The victory went to the defense," Stoughton coach Janet Sullivan said. "We came out very tight. You could tell the kids were nervous. In the first quarter we scored four points - that's not our normal output. We had great offensive opportunities, we just were tight and weren't capitalizing. But our defense kept us in the game through that ugly first quarter [which ended with Stoughton down 6-4] and it won the game."
Trailing 8-4 early in the second quarter, Mackenzie McGrath hit a three-pointer with 6:05 left in the half and Nicole Daniels scored a two-pointer a minute later to give Stoughton a 9-8 lead.
The Black Knights maintained the lead for the rest of the game.
With Stoughton up 20-10, Plymouth South's Tessa Harkenrider hit a three at the buzzer to cut Stoughton's lead to 20-13 at the half. Serena Colbert scored a two-pointer to make it a 20-15 game with about 6:30 left in the third, but then Stoughton went on an 11-2 run over the next three-plus minutes, fueled by 7 points from McGrath to take a 14-point lead, 31-17, with 3:16 left in the third.
McGrath led Stoughton with 20 points on the evening.
"The first quarter [McGrath] was a little tight but after that she warmed right up. She scored 20 points in the last three quarters," Sullivan said. "She has a beautiful outside shot and once she started taking that shot the right way she's our go to player on offense."
Stoughton took a 32-21 lead into the fourth and used an 8-2 run (again fueled by McGrath, who had six points during the stretch) to go up 40-23 midway through the quarter.
Plymouth South closed strong, ending the game on a 12-2 run, but it was too late - Stoughton already had the game well in hand by that point.
The game featured a battle between a pair of six-footers at center - Daniels from Stoughton and Christina Jaros from Plymouth South. Daniels scored 12 points and 15 rebounds and held her counterpart to 7 points.
"The two of them offensively kind of neutralized each other but it was [Daniels'] defense in the middle that prevented anyone else from going inside so they totally relied on their outside shot and they just didn't hit their outside shots because again good defense by everyone. We switched up to a 3-2 [zone] and seemed to take their outside game away and [Daniels] was neutralizing their inside game," Sullivan said.
Ashley Medeiros added 5 points; Zuk had 3 points and 4 assists; Motley had 5 rebounds and Ohimor added 4 rebounds.
Harkenrider led Plymouth South with 11 points; Maddie Norris added 9 points; and Colbert had 5.
Stoughton has a quick turnaround, scheduled to play in the quarterfinals at Braintree Friday at 7 p.m.
"That's the thing about tournament," Sullivan said, "you don't have time to get too excited about your win...we'll come out [Thursday], have a bit of a light practice - it will be mostly strategy, we'll go through our scouting reports on Braintree and come up with a game plan and be ready to go Friday."
Photos and video in the media gallery by Justin Braga; Josh Brown contributed reporting.