Coming out of a timeout and clinging to a two-point advantage over Norwood with just two minutes left in the fourth quarter, Stoughton’s Antonio “Nuke” Ferreira received an alley-oop pass from Aaron Calixte and threw down a dunk to give Stoughton a 50-46 lead. On the ensuing Norwood possession, the senior forward came up with a block on the other end of the court.
The “1-2 punch,” as Stoughton coach John Gallivan referred to it, was the momentum-changer the Black Knights needed late to hold off a tenacious Norwood team.
As a result, the (18-4) secured a 55-48 win over Norwood (12-10) Thursday night at Canton High in the quarterfinals of the MIAA Division 2 South Sectional tournament.
Stoughton, the #4 seed in the D2 South bracket, denied #12 Norwood of its second upset win this tournament.
After in the opening round and Norwood in the quarterfinals, the Black Knights now advance to play rival Oliver Ames, the ninth-seed, in a semifinal matchup.
“[We] made just enough plays. It wasn’t pretty; no one’s going to make a statement that it was pretty, but it’s pretty nice to move on—that’s what we wanted,” Gallivan said.
“It was a battle,” Norwood coach Rich Cormier said. “Stoughton is a really, really good team. Our guys never gave up. I’m really proud of their resiliency. We made some big shots to keep it interesting, got some good stops, but they made the shots they needed to down the stretch.”
Stoughton jumped out to a 14-3 lead, but Norwood cut it to 16-13 at the end of the first quarter. Midway through the second quarter, the Mustangs tied the game at 20 when Steve Martinez hit a three-pointer.
But the Black Knights responded, closing out the half on a 13-0 run, taking a 33-20 lead at the end of the second.
However, just like they did in the first half, Norwood didn’t quit. The Mustangs cut Stoughton’s lead to 36-31 at the 4:05 mark in the third on a three-pointer from Daron English.
Stoughton closed the quarter strong, taking a 43-35 lead after three.
Joe Bunce-Grenon hit a three in the first minute of the fourth to extend Stoughton’s lead to 11 points, but the Mustangs answered with an 11-2 run, making it a 48-46 game with 2:30 left.
“It was 20-20 then they went on a 13-0 run and most of that was because of our turnovers and not rebounding so we needed to do a better job of those two things and I thought we did a better job in the second half of taking care of the basketball and hitting the boards a little bit faster,” Cormier said.
But with the outcome of the game very much in jeopardy, Ferreira turned in the two biggest back-to-back plays of the game, responding with the dunk-block combo.
“He’s an explosive player like that…he makes unbelievable plays for a kid who is literally 6’2,” Gallivan said.
The alley-oop dunk is a play Stoughton has run often this season, but the Black Knights have not been executing it lately, Gallivan said. However, this time, Calixte’s pass was “perfect” and Ferreira was there to convert the dunk.
“We had to do three things,” Gallivan said of executing the alley-oop coming out of the timeout. “We had to break the press, then we had to set up an offense, [and] we had to recognize whether they dropped back in man or zone. So, the kids knew they were going to do one thing against man, or one thing against zone and it worked out it was a big play. Then Nuke went down the other end and got that big block.”
Gallivan added, “That’s beyond a [game-changer]. That’s so demoralizing to get that 1-2 punch.”
In the final two-minutes, Stoughton came up with stops on defense and hit their free-throw shots down the stretch to cement the win.
Calixte led all scorers with 19 points (17 in the first half). Ferreira had 10 points, 8 rebounds and 3 blocks, and Steffan Jackson added 9 points and 10 rebounds, in just his second game back from an ankle injury.
“He’s the missing link,” Gallivan said of Jackson.
Bunce-Grenon, Mike Gallagher, and Joey Wilder all added 3 points apiece. Mauro Oliveira chipped in with two.
Marcus Middleton had six points, but it was his defense (as usual) that made an impression, holding Norwood’s senior captain Sean O’Neill to just 5 points.
“He’s a great defender,” Gallivan said. “I think he’s recognized by all the other teams for that and he’s certainly recognized by his teammates.”
English and Tommy Munro led Norwood with 14 points each. Troy Sousa-Semper added 8 points.
Now, Stoughton and Oliver Ames are set to clash again, this time with a trip to the Division 2 South Sectional finals on the line. The semifinal matchup is scheduled for Tuesday, March 6, at 7 p.m. at Brockton High.
The teams split their previous two meetings this season, with the Black Knights winning at home on January 6 and Oliver Ames winning in Easton on February 7.
When asked what he expected the third time around, Gallivan responded: “overtime.”
View the media gallery above for postgame interviews with Ferreira, Jackson, Calixte, Middleton and coach Gallivan.