With the Stoughton High boys’ varsity basketball team trailing 14-11 at the end of the first quarter after Franklin’s Matt Pellegri hit a three-pointer in the final minute of the period, the Panthers went on a 10-0 run to start the second, shutting out the Black Knights for the first 4:30 of the second quarter, building a 27-17 lead at the half.
Stoughton cut the deficit to two possessions on multiple occasions in the second half, but Franklin had an answer each time, either hitting a big shot or taking advantage of a Stoughton miscue—a missed rebound or missed free throw attempt.
As a result, the Panthers came away with a 69-56 win Friday night in Franklin, capturing the Hockomock League Classic Cup, awarded to the winner of the showdown between the first-place teams from the League’s Davenport and Kelley-Rex Divisions.
Franklin improves to 14-4, while Stoughton falls to 15-3. This is the second straight year Stoughton has lost in the Hockomock crossover first-place game.
“You don’t start with a 25-point lead. It’s a new game, it’s a new situation,” Stoughton head coach John Gallivan said.
“We’re coming down here [to Franklin] and obviously they have the motivation. We should have been motivated to win this. We were very passive in the first half, very soft, and we spotted them a 10-point lead and that was pretty much the margin the rest of the way. We played better in the second half, but you can’t do that this time of year.”
Gallivan continued: “We just didn’t play our kind of basketball. The faster we play, the better we are. [Friday night] we walked it up the court and we stood around. That makes us mediocre at best.”
Stoughton began the second half strong, cutting the deficit to 29-23, with a Marcus Middleton three-pointer fueling a 6-2 Stoughton run, but Franklin responded. On back-to-back possessions, Pellegri and Joe Palazini hit three-pointers, pushing the Panther lead to 35-23. Franklin ended the third up 48-37.
The fourth quarter started the same way as the third—with a Middleton three-pointer, this time cutting the deficit to 48-40. But Franklin responded again, as Brendan Skidmore hit a three.
Stoughton got as close as five points, 53-48, after a basket from Raymond Bowdre with 5 minutes left in the fourth, but a 6-1 Panther run put Franklin back up by double digits.
A three from Mauro Olivera and a two-pointer from Joe Bunce-Grenon twice cut the deficit to 7 in the final minutes, but Stoughton had trouble grabbing rebounds down the stretch and Franklin took advantage, milking the clock with possessions that lasted well over a minute at a time, helping them to a 13-point win.
“We just didn’t box out,” Gallivan said. “We suddenly thought we were shot blockers…we just need to go back to what we’ve been doing most of the year, which is good, solid half-court man-to-man defense. The way we defended some of those cuts tonight, you’d think we had never played together before.”
Middleton led Stoughton with 19 points. Aaron Calixte had 12, while Bowdre had 11. Bunce-Grenon chipped in with 7 points. Mike Gallagher (4 points) and Olivera (3 points) rounded out the scoring for the Black Knights.
Stoughton limited Panthers’ scoring threat Sam Bohmiller to 12 points, but Franklin had a balanced attack with six players scoring at least 7 points. Pellegri led the way with 17, while Palazini added 10.
Free throw shooting played a factor in the outcome, with Stoughton converting just 8 of 19 from the charity stripe, while Franklin hit 16 of 19.
The Black Knights end the regular season at the Walpole Hoop Classic with a two-game vacation tournament on Sunday and Monday. Their first game is Sunday at 6 p.m. against Needham.