Check out a video interview with Joey Wilder, Mike Gallagher and Marcus Middleton in the media gallery of this article. Photos by Justin Braga.
While neither Joey Wilder nor Marcus Middleton scored in the third quarter, both came through with the game on the line in the fourth, helping the Stoughton High boys' basketball team erase an 8-point deficit and beat visiting Sharon, 58-55, Friday night.
Wilder scored Stoughton's first four field goals of the fourth quarter, and Middleton hit the go-ahead three-pointer with 57 seconds left in the game and hit a pair of free throws with 4.4 seconds left to cement the win.
Stoughton is now 6-6 on the season and has swept the season series with Sharon. Stoughton rebounded this week going 2-0, climbing back to the .500 mark, after a disappointing showing at Oliver Ames last Friday, Jan. 18 had the Black Knights sitting at 4-6. Both wins this week came without injured senior captain (and second leading scorer) Joe Bunce-Grenon. The team looks to have Bunce-Grenon back as soon as next week.
The Eagles, meanwhile, fall to 7-6. After an 0-3 start, Sharon ran off seven wins in a row, but now has lost three straight again.
"I thought we did a good job tonight of dealing with some adverse situations and keeping our collective cool and that's a good sign," Stoughton coach John Gallivan said.
"The kids played hard," he added. "[Sharon is] a really good team. We're thrilled to get out of here with a W."
Thrilled because the game looked to be slipping away from Stoughton a little less than three minutes into the final period when Sharon's Brian Mukasa hit a two-pointer to give the Eagles a 54-46 lead with 5:15 left to play.
But Mukasa's two-pointer turned out to be the final basket of the night for Sharon, with the Eagles scoring just one more point the rest of the game, on a free throw from Brian Lawrence with 45.4 seconds left.
Sharon coach Bruce Jackman felt his team "self-destructed" down the stretch with a number of missed layups and missed foul shots.
And Stoughton was able to take advantage on the offensive end and chip away at the Sharon lead.
After Mukasa hit his shot, Wilder scored, Middleton hit a pair of free throws, Oliveira had a free throw and Wilder scored again on a put-back to close the gap to just 54-53 with 2:30 left.
Middleton then had the ball with a chance to give Stoughton the lead, but Brian Lawrence leaped in the air and blocked him. Sharon missed on its ensuing possession, and Middleton, unfazed, found the ball back in his hands and this time sank a three-point shot near the Stoughton bench to give the Black Knights a 56-54 lead with 57 seconds left, their first lead since midway through the third quarter.
"Joey [Wilder] recognized that he didn't have good position and kicked it out to a wide-open Marcus [Middleton] and I'm sure no one in this league wants to see a wide-open Marcus. That was a huge play," Gallivan said.
Stoughton's defense didn't buckle in the final minute and Middleton sank two free throws to make it a three-point game with 4.4 seconds left. Stoughton was solid all night from the foul line (11 for 14). Sharon was unable to get a final shot off.
It's fitting Stoughton won thanks to a three-point shot because the three-pointer carried the Black Knights in the early going. Stoughton hit five three-pointers in the first quarter (Middleton with three and Mauro Oliveira and Eddie Grant with one each) to account for all of the team's 15 points in the period.
Stoughton led 15-12 at the end of 1, but Sharon started the second with an 11-2 run. Stoughton closed the quarter strong, however, and tailed 30-27 heading into the locker room at the half.
Stoughton was shooting 6/13 from beyond the arc and just 2/14 inside in the first half. Stoughton's inside shooting improved in the second half, with the Black Knights going 8/18.
Where Middleton and Wilder paced Stoughton in the fourth, Stanley Sajous, Mike Gallagher and Oliveira kept Stoughton in the game in the third period. Sajous had a team-high six points in the quarter; Gallagher hit back-to-back shots to tie the game at 36; and an Oliveira three briefly gave Stoughton a 39-38 led with 4:05 left in the third.
Sharon took a 47-42 lead into the fourth though, with Stoughton earning the come-from-behind win.
Middleton led all scorers with 21 points, including five three-pointers. Oliveira and Sajous each had 9 points.
Grant had 5 points and Gallagher had 4 points to go along with a team-high 8 rebounds and 6 assists. Wilder scored 8 points, all of which came in the fourth quarter, and added 5 rebounds.
"We don't win [this] game without him," Gallivan said of Wilder. "We couldn't find a way to score and he got a couple of put-backs and a couple of shots that he'd been struggling with. He just got us ignited. He was our energy guy out there."
After scoring 11 points in the first half, Stoughton (led by Middleton and Gallagher) limited Mukasa in the second half, holding the star guard to four points, for a total of 15 on the evening. Lawrence caused Stoughton fits in the second half, however, scoring 14 of his 16 points in the third and fourth quarters. Kevin Bartas added 11 points for the Eagles.
Stoughton travels to Milford on Tuesday and heads to King Philip next Friday. And Sharon hosts Foxborough on Tuesday and travels to Attleboro next Friday.