Check out a video interview with captains Mackenzie McGrath, Emma Zuk and Nicole Daniels in the media gallery of this article
Trailing by as much as 11 in the second half, the Stoughton High girls' basketball team went to the press on defense about midway through the third quarter and it paid off, stymying the Taunton offense down the stretch, with the Black Knights earning a 56-50 come-from-behind win on the road Tuesday night.
With the victory, Stoughton improves to 10-5, clinching a spot in the postseason for the second straight season.
"These kids never give up. They play their hearts out and it showed tonight," Stoughton coach Janet Sullivan said.
With Taunton up 30-26 at the half, the Tigers extended their lead to 40-29 in the third quarter, with Stoughton closing the gap to three, trailing 42-39, heading into the fourth.
The Black Knights were able to force some key steals after switching to variations of a full-court or half-court press, which led to some easy baskets for the Stoughton offense, Sullivan said. The team wasn't in foul trouble, so it allowed Sullivan to fully utilize the pressure on defense.
The success continued in the fourth with Stoughton taking the lead early in the quarter. Taunton was held to just 8 points in the fourth, with Stoughton coming away with a 6-point win.
Senior captain Mackenzie McGrath led Stoughton with 20 points.
"She has that beautiful about 10-foot [to] 12-foot jumper and she was consistent with that tonight," Sullivan said.
Fellow senior captain Nicole Daniels finished with her customary double-double, 12 points and 13 rebounds, adding 4 steals, but it was her defense on Taunton's Angie Martinez which Sullivan noticed.
"[Daniels'] most important job tonight was that she had one of the best players in the league to defend, Angie Martinez, and she only had four baskets on the night [and just one after the first quarter] so she did an awesome job defensively."
And senior captain Emma Zuk added 9 points, seven of which came in the final quarter.
"Some key play tonight by Emma Zuk," Sullivan said. "She's our floor general out there. She kept her composure and kept the team organized."
Ashley Medeiros scored all four of her points in the fourth quarter. Kayla Motely had 11 points, including five second half free throws on six attempts.
Free throw shooting was one of the deciding factors in the game, Sullivan said. Led by Motley and Zuk (who had four free throws) Stoughton went 13 of 17 from the line.
Stoughton, a team slowly returning to health after dealing with a number of midseason injuries and illnesses, lost senior Megan Crimmins again to a shoulder injury Tuesday night, Sullivan said. It was just her second game back after missing an extended period of time.
"Megan Crimmins was instrumental to the win tonight," Sullivan said. "When we went to the press we brought her in because she's so fast, she has great instincts."
Stoughton hosts Foxborough Friday at 6:30 p.m. on what will be senior night for SHS. The team has five games left in the regular season.
"We've accomplished our first goal of getting to tournament, now we'd like to come up with a couple of more wins to improve our seeding," Sullivan said.