The Stoughton High boys’ basketball team was unable to topple the Hopkinton Hillers (18-3) on Thursday night, losing 78-72 in the quarterfinal round of the MIAA Division 2 South Sectional Tournament.
With the loss, the Black Knights (13-9) season comes to an abrupt end.
“I thought we played hard,” Stoughton High head coach John Gallivan said. “We just didn’t execute, a couple times in each quarter. Whether it was defensively not boxing out or not providing lob help or not recognizing some of the things we talked about. We made just enough mistakes to let them stay in it and then they made just enough plays to pull away down the stretch.”
This is Stoughton’s first non-league loss all season (5-1). Hopkinton advances to take on Oliver Ames in the semifinal. Ninth-seeded Stoughton had beat #8 Hingham 77-48 in the first round of the tournament Monday night. Top-seeded Hopkinton had a first-round bye.
Sophomore captain Aaron Calixte had a team-high 23 points for the Black Knights, but Stoughton couldn’t stop Hopkinton senior Jake Doucette, who scored a game-high 24 points. Black Knight sophomore Marcus Middleton added 17 points, including a half court runner that beat the buzzer at halftime.
“I thought that early Jake really established his presence inside which is necessary for us to win,” Hopkinton head coach Tom Keane said. “Barrett [Hanlon] just had big shots down the stretch. He did a phenomenal job of taking care of the basketball. They are ball hawks. [Kris] Joyce is a ball hawk. [Kevin] Bui, Calixte, they’re all ball hawks. We really needed someone to handle the ball and Barrett did a great job on that.”
Trailing 34-27 with three minutes left in the first half, the Black Knights went on a 9-0 run, capped by Middleton’s half court prayer, to take a two-point lead into halftime.
Entering the third quarter, the Black Knights carried the momentum from Middleton’s shot and scored 15 points in the first three minutes, the same total they had the entire first quarter, upping their lead to 51-43.
However in the end, the Hillers rallied and were able to close out the game.
Stoughton led 58-55 heading into the fourth, but with just over four and a half minutes left in the final quarter and with the game tied at 63, Doucette pulled down an offensive rebound and put it back for a score while being fouled. Doucette converted his free throw, putting the Hillers ahead for good, 66-63.
Hopkinton kept the game just out of reach for the Black Knights down the stretch, holding on for the victory.
“It wasn’t until the last 3:30 or so that we did a good job taking away Calixte and Joyce,” Keane said. “We were really trying to take them out of the game and try to make the other kids beat us a little bit. We were fortunate enough tonight that they started getting a little bit cold from the outside and we were able to convert on the offensive end. “
So far this season, there have only been a few teams that have been able to keep pace with the Black Knights’ speed, but the Hillers joined that list, causing fits for Stoughton.
“They have some good athletes,” Gallivan said. “They like the fast tempo; we like the fast tempo. I think that the people got their money’s worth. Down the stretch, it just comes down to a couple of plays and they made it.”
Throughout the entire game, the Black Knights couldn’t find their offensive rhythm, failing put together a lengthy run.
“They kept changing their defenses,” Gallivan said. “They went from triangle-two, to two-three, to man, to triangle, to box-and-one. They played a lot of defenses. Some of it worked and some of it didn’t. Anytime we got comfortable, they would switch it up and it would be a question of us trying to find our comfort zone again. It wasn’t a real comfortable game for us. We got away from the things we do well and we gave in a little bit to the big moment.”
Hopkinton played tight defense from the start, specifically on Calixte and senior captain Kris Joyce. Calixte was able to break free late in the first half and continued to get free in the second.
“He’s an explosive player and you can hold him down for a while but you can’t hold him down for a whole game,” Gallivan said of Calixte. “He had a strong game. It’s tough when you get in foul trouble and you sit out early in the game, it’s hard to get on track but he had a strong game.”
Middleton again had his hands full defensively, dealing with junior guard Barrett Hanlon. Middleton turned in an iron man performance, playing the entire game and contributing on both ends of the floor.
“Marcus had a great game,” Gallivan said. “Marcus played 32 minutes and he played hard the entire 32 minutes. He brings it both ways. He’s a scorer; he’s a defender. [Hanlon] was tough. That was a great matchup to watch. Again the fans – I don’t know if they enjoyed it – but they have to appreciate it.”
Stoughton got strong performances from three seniors on what turned out to be their last games in black and orange. Joyce netted 8 points, Atticus Rentsch had a season-high 8 points, and Kevin Bui had a big game with 14 points. Joyce concludes a well-decorated career at Stoughton High with 1,140 points for the Black Knights.
“It’s tough,” Gallivan said. “It’s a cruel tournament. It’s wonderful on Monday and it’s awful on Thursday. Every night, half the teams go home in tears and the other half can’t sleep because they’re so excited.
“Did we want to go on? Of course. But this team did accomplish a lot. It’s tough right now to appreciate it but hopefully these guys can wrap their heads around it in the next couple of days. We’ll get together one more time as a team and talk about some of the successes we’ve had. We’ll miss the seniors and we look forward to coaching the younger guys next year.”