At the end of the Stoughton High girls' basketball team's hard-fought 45-42 senior night win Thursday at home, the team's six seniors and their parents were in no rush to leave the court, soaking up another milestone in a year full of them leading up to graduation.
On a night when Stoughton honored seniors Megan Crimmins, Nicole Daniels, Mackenzie McGrath, Ariene Ohimor, Marlena Siegel and Emma Zuk, Stoughton coach Janet Sullivan relied heavily on this group to pull out the team's second win of the season against Foxborough, both of which were not decided until the final seconds.
"They're leaders by example. Each one of them brings a different personality and attributes to the team," Sullivan said of her senior class.
"We relay so much on [Daneils] but tonight you'll see they did a good job stopping her offense, but that's alright because she stopped their offense. Her defense tonight was tremendous," Sullivan said. "Emma is our floor general; this is [Ohimor's] first game back in a while and she was massive on the boards; Marlena knocked down three 3-pointers; Megan on the bench [out with a shoulder injury] was into it giving instructions like another coach out there; Mackenzie has been our go-to player all year."
"They seem to genuinely care about one another and they really enjoy playing together and I think you saw that on the floor tonight. They were having fun," Sullivan added.
McGrath hit a three-pointer to put Stoughton up by 10 points, 42-32, midway through the fourth quarter on Thursday, and it looked as if the the Black Knights might pull away, but Foxborough wasn't about to go quietly.
A basket by Foxborough's Kristen Warner cut the Stoughton lead to 42-40 with 52 seconds left to play, capping an 8-0 run for the Warriors.
On Stoughton's next possession, Zuk made one of two free throws, followed by a Foxborough missed shot, and then Stoughton's Ashley Medeiros was fouled and hit both of her foul shots, giving Stoughton a 45-40 edge with 25.5 seconds left. On the other end of the court, Andrea Marcotte was fouled while attempting a three-pointer and sank two out of three free throws to make it a 45-42 game with 16.3 seconds left.
Stoughton missed both of its foul shots on the ensuing possession, giving Foxborough a chance with 11.5 seconds on the clock to run a final play and send the game into overtime. But Katherine Tamulionis' three-point attempt hit the backboard, and Daniels grabbed the rebound and got the ball to Zuk who ran out the clock as the Black Knights held on for the 45-42 win.
Stoughton improves to 11-5, while the Warriors fall to 11-4.
Stoughton led 10-9 at the end of the first quarter. With the game tied at 16 after a two-pointer from Tamulionis with 3:56 left in the second, Stoughton held Foxborough to just one point the rest of the half, closing the quarter on a 9-1 run, taking a 25-17 lead at halftime.
After a sluggish start to the third quarter, where both teams scored just two points apiece over the first four minutes of the period, Stoughton took a 32-23 lead into the final eight minutes of play. Stoughton was up 10 in the fourth, but Foxborough closed the game with a 10-3 run to almost pull off the comeback.
"The first half was probably the best basketball we played all season. We controlled the ball, we didn't throw it away," Sullivan said. "We got a little sloppy in the second half and we paid for it, but again, I give them credit - they gutted it out."
"Our defense decided to show up in the last three minutes of the game. We were just trying to double team their ball handlers to make the person bringing the ball up the court a little more uncomfortable handling the ball," Foxborough coach Lisa Downs said. "It was just a little bit too late. The effort was great at the end but we were lacking 29 minutes of that effort."
One of the highlights of the game was the battle between the opposing centers Ashley Snyder of Foxborough and Daniels of Stoughton. Snyder finished with 14 points, but was limited to just three field goals (unflappable, she went 8 for 8 from the free throw line) and Daniels had 6, also limited to three field goals.
"Snyder is a great player. [Daniels] is a great player. And you saw them going at it all night," Sullivan said. "Give credit to the refs, they let them play and [Snyder and Daniels] kind of neutralized each other. So it ended up being the rest of the team that was going to win or lose the game and I liked that other people stepped up tonight because we do rely so much on [Daniels]."
It was Stoughton's outside shooters who stepped up - Zuk (11 points), McGrath (9 points) and Siegel (9 points), combined for 29 points, including a half-dozen three-pointers between the three of them.
Daniels added 13 rebounds, while McGrath (4) and Zuk (3) combined for 7 assists.
Ohimor had 4 points and 7 rebounds; Medeiros had 3 points and 4 rebounds; and Kayla Motley had 3 points and 3 rebounds.
In addition to Snyder's 14 points, Warner had 8 points for Foxborough, including six in the fourth quarter; Andrea Marcotte also had 8 points; Tamulionis had 7; and Ally Perry had 5.
This was the last home game for Stoughton this regular season, but the team hopes it's not the last home game of the season. The Black Knights will close out their schedule with four games on the road - but at 11-5 and already postseason bound, depending on the outcome of those remaining games, Stoughton and its core of six seniors, might wind up with a home game in the postseason tournament.
Stoughton travels to Canton Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., while Foxborough travels to Milford the same night.