It wasn’t their flashiest performance of the season, but the pulled away in the second half to upend Canton Friday night, 61-38, in a game between the top two teams in the Hockomock League’s Davenport Division.
Stoughton improves to 9-1, while the Bulldogs fall to 6-4.
“I think once again, the story is defense,” Stoughton head coach John Gallivan said.
“We held another team to under 40. In this league, holding anybody under 40 is a testament to the way the kids are working out there. They’re making the right decisions and they are helping each other out. It wasn’t always easy on offense but defense gives you a little time to catch your breath.”
The Black Knights were fueled by a strong all-around effort from junior guard Aaron Calixte, who came up just short of a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 7 assists.
“Calixte’s just a handful,” said first-year Canton head coach Ryan Gordy. “We tried a variety of different defenses on him. Every time they needed a play, and every time we started to make a comeback and make a push, [Calixte] came back and made a play. He really sucked the life out of us.”
Calixte said he saw the floor open up in the fourth quarter when Canton switched to man-to-man defense. He said he just followed the game plan when it came to his 10 rebounds.
“Coach talked about crashing the boards, all five guys, so I started crashing,” Calixte said.
Gallivan was glad to see the game plan he set was well executed.
“We talked right before we came out about rebounding and how everyone has to do it,” Gallivan added. “It’s a nice sign when your point guard gets a double-double because of rebounds.”
Despite trailing by double digits for the majority of the game, the Bulldogs were consistently battling back to remain in contention, forcing 16 turnovers.
“They have some good players,” Gallivan said. “They change their defense so often. As soon as you get comfortable offensively, they would switch it to something else. When decisions were made, we didn’t always make the right one.”
The Bulldogs were able to get within three points in the second quarter, but the Black Knights had some help from their bench. Sophomore Joe Wilder hit two free throws and then classmate Mike Gallagher scored 5 straight points to increase the Stoughton lead to 10.
Stoughton took a 31-19 lead into the half and led 43-30 after three quarters. The Black Knights limited Canton to 8 fourth quarter points, coming away with the 23-point win.
The marquee match up featured Canton’s leading scorer Joe McCabe (5th in the Hockomock in points per game) and Stoughton’s lock-down defender Marcus Middleton. McCabe was able to score 9 in the first half, but was limited to two in the second half.
“Middleton’s athleticism is good,” Gordy said. “I didn’t run good enough stuff for Joe. He’ll bounce back. He’s a competitor, he’s a warrior.”
The Bulldogs also got strong performances from seniors Colby Gavigan, whose 10 first-half points kept Canton within striking distance, and Anthony Bires, who hit two early three’s in the fourth quarter.
For Stoughton, senior center Antonio Ferreira had 10 points and 8 rebounds, as well as 4 blocks. Middleton finished with 12, Wilder had 7, and Gallagher finished with 5 points.
Canton will now host Fairhaven High School in a non-conference match up on Sunday.
“That’s a game we have to win,” Gordy said. “It’s on our home court. We haven’t lost back-to-back games all season. We’ll have a nice practice tomorrow and we’ll bring it on Sunday with Fairhaven.”
Stoughton will now travel to King Philip (9-1) in what many people considered the game of the year even before the season started. The game features the first place teams in the Davenport (Stoughton) and Kelley-Rex (KP) Divisions of the Hockomock League.
“It’s definitely a litmus test for us,” Gallivan said. “We have to make some huge adjustments for their personnel. Not only for Jake [Layman], but for all of the guys that they have. We’ll see how well we can execute under what should be tournament-like conditions.”