Junior Nicole Daniels was succinct in describing how she felt about her team clinching a postseason tournament berth.
“Whooo!” the Stoughton center exclaimed in a postgame interview.
In a game of runs, the had the two largest, and as a result, beat Sharon, 46-40, on Friday, improving to 10-5, giving Stoughton a win on senior night, and most importantly securing the team a spot in the state tournament.
“Our team hasn’t made tournament in a long time, so we’re extremely excited,” senior Chrystal Holland said. “It’s great, it’s like the best feeling in the world to not only have a senior night, but win.”
“[Holland] is a four-year starter and it’s the first time she’s made [the postseason tournament] so I’m very happy for her, very happy for all our seniors,” Stoughton coach Janet Sullivan said.
“We’ve had great team chemistry all year, all the kids pulled together. Every night someone different seems to chip in. Nice team victory and nice reward for how hard they’ve worked all season to make tournament.”
With the loss, falls to 7-8, but the Eagles are still in tournament contention, needing three wins in their final four games.
“It’s doable, but we play tough teams and we’re going to have to come out and play,” Sharon coach Kate Horsmann said.
The Eagles led 31-30 with less than 3 minutes left in the third, following a Karlie O’Driscoll free throw, but didn’t score again until 3:15 left in the fourth quarter.
Over this near-eight minute stretch, Stoughton went on what proved to be a decisive 16-0 run, turning a one-point deficit into a 46-31 lead.
Holland scored 11 points during the run.
Stoughton also dialed up the pressure with a press defense, forcing multiple turnovers. Sharon had some “bad shot selection” during this stretch as well, Horsmann said.
“You need to execute and their defense just overwhelmed us,” Horsmann said. “We weren’t poised enough.”
“Our defense fed our offense because we had fast breaks, we had good defensive steals,” Daniels said.
Sharon didn’t go quietly, however. The Eagles closed the game on a 9-0 run, fueled by two Andrea Bender three-pointers. Stoughton missed some free throws down stretch, but the Black knights held on for the win.
Bender also keyed Sharon’s first run in the opening quarter, with two three-pointers, helping to turn a 6-6 tie into a 14-8 Eagles lead at the end of one.
Just a sophomore, Bender led all scorers with 22 points, including six three-pointers.
“She’s a great shooter. She was looking for her opportunity. She was making her shots tonight,” Horsmann said.
“I thought she played great defensively and did a great job boxing out as well, so she had a really complete game for us.”
Stoughton started the second quarter with an 18-3 run, paced by juniors Mackenzie McGrath, Emma Zuk and Daniels. The junior trio had 16 of Stoughton’s 18 points in the quarter.
But Sharon closed the quarter with an 8-0 run to make it a one-point game, 26-25 at the half.
Holland led Stoughton with 13 points. Fellow seniors Jackie Kuhn and Katherine Chlus chipped in with 4 and 3 respectively.
Sullivan started all five of her seniors on Senior Night—Holland, Kuhn, Chlus, Jessica Freitas and Liz Roch.
Stoughton juniors were well-represented on senior night, with Daniels finishing with 12 points, McGrath scoring 9, and Zuk adding 5.
“Mackenzie had a great night. She sparked us on the offensive end a couple of times,” Sullivan said. “Nicole Daniels is always in there; she controls the boards for us. She rebounds. She alters their shot…and Emma is the general of the team; she runs us out there. She sees the floor so well and even with all the pressure they gave her tonight, she kept control of herself and the play. I cannot say enough about those three juniors.”
Lily Abarbanel added 5 points for Sharon, while Katie Lowerre and O’Driscoll had 4 points apiece.
Stoughton travels to on Tuesday, while Sharon plays Dighton-Rehoboth the same night.