With the game tied at 46 halfway through the fourth quarter, and Marcus Middleton made two key three-pointers down the stretch to help the Stoughton High boys’ basketball team beat Hopkinton, 59-53, Saturday night at UMass Boston in the Division 2 South Sectional Final.
Division 2 South Sectional champion Stoughton (20-4) will now play Division 2 North Sectional champion Brighton (20-3) Monday at 6 p.m. at the TD Garden in a D2 state semifinal game, with a trip to the state finals on the line.
“The tournament is a different season from the regular season and each game the pressure is higher and the venue is bigger and the crowd is louder. I give these kids all the credit in the world. They stepped up and they have achieved one of their goals, but it’s not their only goal—they just don’t want to go to the Garden, they want to do something there,” Stoughton coach John Gallivan said.
“I’m so proud of them. I’m so happy for them. All 14 of them work their tails off and it’s such a nice reward for them.”
Meanwhile, Hopkinton (17-7), last season’s D2 South Champion, falls just short of a return trip to the Celtics’ home court.
“I couldn’t be more proud about getting this far,” Hopkinton coach Tom Keane said, noting the amount of turnover in his roster from last season to this season.
“It was a fantastic game back and forth between two very good teams. I thought it lived up to the hype as far as two good teams battling back and forth. The fourth quarter was definitely wild.”
Stoughton entered the fourth quarter winning 42-36, but a 7-0 Hopkinton run erased the Stoughton lead, and the Black Knights trailed by one with 5:50 to go. Calixte hit a pull up jumper to give Stoughton the lead again and Mauro Oliveira followed with a two-pointer to put Stoughton up by three, 46-43.
But, for the second time in the quarter, Hopkinton’s Hank Rudden drained a three-pointer. His first cut Stoughton’s lead to one, 42-41, and his second tied the game at 46 with 4:50 to play.
Stoughton’s goal was to get the ball out of the hands of Hopkinton’s best player, Barrett Hanlon, and here was Rudden coming through in a reserve roll.
“He’s a bench player who hadn’t really played for us the last two games. I had to use him because he’s close to being athletic enough to guard Calixte,” Keane said. “So he was in the game for defense and came up with two huge threes, so it’s really a good example of a kid staying ready.”
Calixte’s three broke the tie and gave the Black Knights a 49-46 lead. Jason Dlugolecki answered with a two-pointer on the other end of the court, but Middleton responded with a three-pointer of his own with 2:52 left to give Stoughton a 52-48 edge. Stoughton maintained at least a three-point lead for the remainder of the game.
“They are not seniors but they are leaders and they’re upperclassmen and that’s what guys like that do,” Gallivan said of juniors Calixte and Middleton. “I thought the two of them stepped up in crunch time and hit some huge shots and them made some big stops on the defensive end.”
Stoughton hit its foul shots down the stretch and held on for the win.
The Black Knights held a 15-10 lead after the first and a 29-21 lead at the half. Stoughton led by as many as 10 in the second quarter and by as many as nine in the third, but Hopkinton prevented Stoughton from pulling away until the final minute.
Antonio “Nuke” Ferreira tuned in another tremendous effort, continuing to take his game to a different level this postseason. The senior had 16 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals.
Calixte finished with 18 points, 10 assists and 3 blocks. Middleton added 9 points, as did Oliveira. Steffan Jackson had 4 points and 7 rebounds and Raymond Bowdre added 3 points and 8 rebounds.
Jason Dlugolecki had 23 points for Hopkinton, while Barrett Hanlon scored 16. Rudden had 6, Tim Moberg had 5 and Ryan Hamilton added 3. Dlugolecki and Hanlon combined to score all of Hopkinton’s first half points (21).
Stoughton, the #4 seed in the D2 South bracket, finished the regular season at 16-4 and beat #13 Duxbury 69-63 in the first round; beat #12 Norwood 55-48 in the quarterfinals; and beat #9 Oliver Ames 68-42 in the semifinals, before knocking off #6 Hopkinton in the sectional finals, a team that beat Stoughton in the postseason .
Stoughton faces a quick turnaround, having to play Monday night at the Garden. The Black Knights are two wins away from a D2 state title.
“I imagined doing it, but now that I’m doing it, it feels so different,” Ferreira said of getting to play at the Garden.
“We’ve been dreaming about this since what third grade travel,” Middleton said.
“Every little kid dreams about this,” Calixte added, “now we’re actually doing it.”
Video interviews with coach John Gallivan and Aaron Calixte, Marcus Middleton and Antonio Ferreira are posted in the media gallery.