Check out the media gallery for a video interview with captains Mackenzie McGrath, Emma Zuk and Nicole Daniels
With Nicole Daniels, Mackenzie McGrath, Emma Zuk and Ashley Medeiros all scoring in double figures, the Stoughton High girls' basketball team pulled away late, defeating a pesky King Philip squad, 60-51, Friday at SHS.
With the win, Stoughton is now 9-5, one win away from clinching a second consecutive postseason tournament berth.
While Friday was a matchup of an 8-win Stoughton team vs. a 3-11 KP squad, the Warriors kept this game close until the final minutes.
Trailing KP 33-29 with 5:55 left in the third quarter, Stoughton proceeded to go on a 13-0 run over the next 4:10 of play to take a 42-33 lead with 1:45 left in the third.
Mackenzie McGrath, an outside shooting threat, led the Black Knights during the run, but this time by going inside, getting three layups.
It's the type of run that could have put a team away, but a three-pointer from KP's McKenzie Richardson and a two-pointer from Alicia Cuoco to end the quarter made it a 42-38 game heading into the fourth.
After trading points to start the fourth quarter, Stoughton was up 48-44 when Kayla Motley grabbed a rebound off a missed shot and kicked it out to Zuk for a three-pointer. Daniels followed with a basket and Medeiros sank two free throws, and suddenly Stoughton led 55-44 with 4:18 to play.
But back-to-back scores from Richardson and Cuoco got KP within six, trailing 55-49. The Warriors had the ball trailing by the same six-point margin, 57-51, with less than two minutes to play, but couldn't convert.
After the KP miss, Medeiros found Daniels underneath the basket for two points. The bucket gave Stoughton a 59-51 lead with 1:10 left, and finally ended KP's comeback hopes.
"I'm very pleased with the way the kids did respond at the end using the clock, running the ball around. They played some smart ball down the stretch and that's what we needed because [King Philip] would not go away," Stoughton coach Janet Sullivan said.
"That is a team that is destined to win some games down the stretch. Their record does not reflect how good a team they are and how hard they play and how tenacious their defense is," Sullivan said of the now 3-12 Warriors.
Sullivan said Stoughton's good shooting night, and balance between the inside and outside game, was the difference.
McGrath led Stoughton with 18 points, adding 4 assists. Zuk and Medeiros each had 13.
"I have to give Mackenzie, Ashley and Emma a lot of credit," Sullivan said. "They brought the ball up all night against the toughest pressure we've seen all year and we did have some trouble in the first half but we seemed to settle down and do a better job in the second half, but they never had it easy...there was always pressure."
Daniels had 16 points, 20 rebounds and 3 steals. Kayla Motley added 8 rebounds.
Richardson led KP with 18, while Cuoco had 14.
In a back-and-forth first half, Stoughton led 12-9 at the end of the first and 27-25 at the end of the second. Stoughton outscored KP by seven, 33-26, in the third and fourth quarters.
"I was very happy with the poised way we played in the second half," Sullivan said. "The first half we tried to run with them - we played a lot of man, we tried to press a little bit and quite frankly they were better at the up tempo game. For us, we needed a half court game so we could use our size advantage. The second half we switched to a zone defense so we'd stay out of foul trouble and we ran a much more slow down, organized offense. That's why we pulled ahead in the third quarter and maintained."
Stoughton, playing short-handed the last few weeks with a number of players out with illness or injury, is slowly seeing its players return to action. Megan Crimmins was the latest to return, earning the start against KP.
Stoughton will look to clinch a spot in the postseason next week with games at Taunton on Tuesday and at home against Foxborough on Friday. Meanwhile, King Philip hosts Canton on Tuesday and travels to Attleboro next Friday.