Photos in the gallery by Justin Braga and Jeffrey Pickette
Locked in a back-and-forth defensive battle, both the Stoughton High boys' basketball team and visiting Franklin struggled to shoot the ball, combining to hit only 33.3 percent of their attempts in a performance Stoughton coach John Gallivan quipped "set the game back offensively a few decades."
But, Franklin made a couple of key shots in the final minutes of play, and converted its free throw opportunities down the stretch to pull away, beating Stoughton 54-47 Friday night at SHS.
With the loss, Stoughton falls to 2-4, with three of the losses coming in the waning moments of the fourth quarter. Franklin, meanwhile, gets back to .500, improving to 3-3.
"It looked like at the end of three quarters that the defense was doing what we wanted it to do - they only had 34 - and then they put up 20 in the fourth quarter. They hit their foul shots. We missed seven, possibly eight, if you count the back end of a one-and-one. What we take away from this is that you can't close out games like that," Gallivan said. "We shot it when we shouldn't. We didn't when we should."
Gallivan continued, "The games we've won, like Sharon and Natick, we've shot exceptionally well from the foul line and closed those games out strong. The games we've lost, like Attleboro [and Franklin] and the Milford game, we just kind of stumbled through the fourth quarter and we have to figure out a way to be a stronger team."
After taking a 10-6 lead at the end of the first, Stoughton trailed by one, 24-23, at the half, but the Black Knights took a 36-34 lead after three quarters of play.
Franklin took the lead back to start the fourth quarter when Chris Rodgers hit a three-pointer just 30 seconds into the period. Joey Wilder tied the game at 39 with a lay-in with 5:40 to play, but Franklin retook the lead for good on the next possession.
Stoughton got within a single point on three occasions, but then Franklin's Jaquan James opened the game up. His three-pointer made it 48-44 with 1:33 to play. Joe Bunce-Grenon answered with a 2-pointer, yet Sam Bohmiller hit a basket on the other end of the court, giving Franklin a 50-46 advantage with just 51.1 seconds left.
Bunce-Grenon was fouled with 27.8 seconds left, making 1 of 2 free throws. Down 50-47 and with the shot clock turned off, Stoughton was going to need to foul and hope Franklin faltered at the line to give the Black Knights a chance to send the game into overtime.
Franklin didn't oblige as Bohmiller made all four of his free throws, giving the Panthers a 7-point win. Franklin closed the game on a 9-3 run.
Marcus Middleton, returning from an ankle injury which kept him out of Stoughton's last game, led the Black Knights with 15 points. Wilder added 11. Middleton and Wilder paced Stoughton in the first and second quarters with the pair combining for 20 of the team's 23 first half points.
Bunce-Grenon had 7 points and 7 rebounds. Mauro Oliveira added 4 points and 6 rebounds. Eddie Grant had 4 points, Stanley Sajous had 3 points, Mike Gallagher had 2 and Andrew Valle had 1.
Bohmiller led Franklin with 18 points, including 6 points in the final minute to put the game away. Gallivan praised his team's defense on Bohmiller, which was led by Gallagher, but Bohmiller's play down the stretch showed why Gallivan considers him to be a "strong contender" for Most Valuable Player in the Hockomock League.
"We did a good job in the first half, we did a good job in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter he found a way to kind of impose his will out there and that's what great players do," Gallivan said.
Stoughton has two pivotal Hockomock League Davenport Division games next week, Tuesday vs. visiting Foxborough (6-2) and Friday at Canton (3-3).
Echoing Patriots coach Bill Belichick, Gallivan said he is taking one game at a time.
"We need to just win on Tuesday. We don't even talk about Friday until 8 o'clock on Tuesday night [when the Foxborough game has concluded]," Gallivan said.