The Stoughton High boys’ basketball team overcame the early sharp-shooting of Needham junior Connor McLeod, but couldn’t hold off the Rockets down the stretch, losing 53-49 Sunday evening in the opening contest of the two-game Walpole Hoop Classic, played at Walpole High.
Stoughton fell behind by 11 at the end of the first quarter, but by the start of the fourth, the Black Knights had tied the game at 37.
Stoughton outscored Needham 26-15 over the second and third quarters to climb back into the game, but the Rockets did not falter in the fourth, making some key plays on both ends of the court.
“Close games come down to the difference between hitting a layup, not hitting a layup; hitting foul shots, not hitting foul shots; boxing out, not boxing out,” Stoughton coach John Gallivan said.
“We had just enough of those [Sunday night]—I think we missed 11 foul shots in a one possession game at the end of the fourth quarter. Eleven is a large number, we have to do a better job.”
With the loss, Stoughton falls to 15-4, dropping back-to-back games for the first time all season. Stoughton had won eight-straight against non-Hockomock League opponents in the regular season, with the team’s last loss coming against Needham in the 2009-2010 season. The Rockets, meanwhile, improve to 14-5.
Needham got off to a fast start, thanks to McLeod. The junior hit two three-pointers from the corner, near the Stoughton bench, to give the Rockets a 6-0 lead. He made four three-pointers in the opening quarter and scored 15 of Needham’s 22 points in the period.
“I would say that’s the best quarter I’ve seen him play,” Needham coach Paul Liner said. “He’s willing to take the big shot. He’s grown tremendously this year as a player and we’re just so glad to have him in our program.”
Stoughton limited McLeod to just two points in the second and third quarters as the Black Knights came back. Needham was held to just 15 points as a team in those two quarters, after scoring 22 in the first.
“I told the kids we’re not going to be able to shoot the ball this well the whole game. I don’t know if they believed me or not,” Liner said. “I knew Stoughton would have at least one, if not two really good runs there.”
Trailing 22-11 at the end of one, Stoughton cut the deficit to seven, 31-24, at the half.
Stoughton found itself down by nine, 37-29, but closed the third on an 8-0 run—Antonio Ferreira scored followed by three-pointers by Mike Gallagher and Marcus Middleton.
Both teams traded points in the opening minutes of the fourth, but with the game tied at 39, McLeod and Shy Davis hit back-to-back shots to give Needham a 43-39 lead with five minutes left. The Rockets maintained at least a one-possession lead for the remainder of the game.
A Kevin Farley layup made it a 50-45 game with less than two minutes to play. Stoughton turned the ball over on its next possession, but Davis missed a chance to put the game away, with his layup rimming out. Still, Needham held on for the win as Stoughton went the final four minutes without a field goal.
Aaron Calixte was held to 6 points. Gallivan said Needham had a similar defensive strategy as Franklin, but foul trouble also helped contain Stoughton’s scoring threat. Calixte played most of the game with three fouls; picked up his fourth midway through the third quarter; and fouled out with 28.1 seconds left.
“We got some good looks against [the Needham defense]. Unfortunately Aaron got in foul trouble. That takes away his ability to attack the basket because once you get that third [foul] in the second quarter or fourth in the third quarter, you can’t have him spinning his way through the lane,” Gallivan said.
“We got open looks, we just didn’t knock them down.”
Middleton and Ferreira led Stoughton with 12 points each. Joe Bunce-Grenon added 8, Gallagher and Calixte had 6 each, and Raymond Bowdre had 3 points.
Stoughton was just 15 of 26 from the free throw line, missing 11 foul shots for the second straight game.
McLeod led Needham with 23 points. Davis added 6 points; John Madsen had 5.
Stoughton looks to rebound in the consolation game of the Walpole Hoop Classic, taking on host Walpole Monday at 6 p.m. Needham will play Xaverian in the championship game at 7:45 p.m.