At the end of a Sunday afternoon practice on March 4, Stoughton head coach John Gallivan talked to his team about the importance of making big plays in key moments. If Stoughton was able to do this Tuesday against Oliver Ames, the Black Knights would win. But if the team faltered, the players would be turning in their uniforms and the season would end.
The Black Knights responded with perhaps their most dominating victory of the season.
Tied at 13 with 1:20 left in the first quarter, the went on a 12-0 run to close out the first and start the second, taking a 25-13 lead.
And they never looked back.
Stoughton came away with a 68-42 win, cruising past archrival Oliver Ames Tuesday night at Brockton High in a Division 2 South sectional semifinal contest.
“Anytime you beat OA it's special. Anytime you win a tournament game it's special. But to beat them in the tournament means a lot to our kids. And our kids were really up on this and they did their jobs,” Gallivan said.
After beating OA, the #9 seed, fourth-seeded Stoughton (19-4) now advances to play sixth seeded Hopkinton in the D2 South finals Saturday at UMass-Boston. Hopkinton beat Wellesley, the #10 seed, 64-62 on Tuesday in the other semifinal matchup.
Marcus Middleton scored eight straight points to break the 13-13 tie, hitting two three-pointers and scoring a layup off an steal.
“The bigger the court, the longer the court, the more effective Marcus is because when he’s going north-south with the ball, he’s tough to stop,” Gallivan said. “When he gets a step lead on someone, he’s going to get to the glass; he’s going to score—he’s a great finisher.
Aaron Calixte led all scorers with 22 points, but it was Antonio “Nuke” Ferreira who paced Stoughton with 10-points in the first quarter, scoring 10 of the team’s first 13 points.
“He scored points when we needed them desperately. He gave us room to breathe, kind of catch our breath and settle down and run our stuff,” Gallivan said.
It was Ferreira who controlled the game’s opening minutes, Middleton made his mark on offense at the end of the first and the beginning of the second to give Stoughton the lead for good, and then Calixte led the way for the rest of the half, scoring 10 points in the final seven minutes of the second, to give the Black Knights a 33-20 lead at the half.
“I thought he took care of the basketball and I thought he hit shots when he needed to, but I also thought he did a nice job spreading the ball around,” Gallivan said.
Calixte finished with a team-high six assists.
Stoughton also led at the half by the same score of 33-20 against , only to see that lead nearly erased. The Black Knights avoided that this time around.
“We knew it was our possession [coming out of the half]. If we could get a score and a stop we'd be in pretty good shape. If you can turn a 13-point lead into a 20-point lead, life is good. If 13 turns to six as we saw the other day [against Norwood], life's tough,” Gallivan said.
Stoughton started the third with a three-pointer from Mauro Oliveira and ended the third with another three-pointer, this time from Mike Gallagher, to extend the Stoughton lead to 19, 51-32, heading into the fourth.
“I think Mike and Mauro both had a couple of big shots…that’s a big lift for us,” Gallivan said.
Stoughton controlled the boards in this game, particularly on the offensive end. The Black Knights prolonged several possessions by grabbing offensive rebounds.
Ferreira led the way with 14 rebounds (9 offensive), while Steffan Jackson had 13 rebounds (6 offensive).
“Ferreira and Jackson were just all over the glass. We just were not able to rebound,” OA coach Don Byron said.
Stoughton didn’t let up in the fourth quarter, extending the lead and cementing a 26-point win.
The two teams had , . Stoughton won this rubber match in a blowout.
“When we talked a month ago or even more – back in December – we thought they [Stoughton] were the best team in Div. 2 and potentially the best team in the south, period,” Byron said. “To beat them the second time around, things had to go very, very well. We had to do a lot right and we did. But, we had their full attention tonight, and we knew we weren’t going to get anything but their best and their best is pretty darn good.”
In addition to Calixte’s 22 points, Ferreira had 16 and Middleton added 12. Gallagher and Oliveira had 5 points each. Jackson had 4 and Andrew Valle chipped in with 2.
Nick Bruha led Oliver Ames with 18 points. Jeff Babbitt had 9 points, while Andrew Reardon added 8.
Stoughton now has a 3-2 lead head-to-head with OA in state tournament play since 2005.
The sectional finals matchup is a rematch of last season’s , a 78-72 loss for Stoughton.
This is Stoughton’s first trip to the D2 South finals since 2004.
Check the media gallery above for interviews with Coach Gallivan as well as with players Aaron Calixte, Marcus Middleton, Antonio Ferreira, Steffan Jackson and Mike Gallagher.