With 16.9 seconds remaining in the game’s fourth overtime, and with Stoughton up by one, sophomore Aaron Calixte stepped up to the foul line and calmly sank both free throws to put the boys’ basketball team ahead by three.
After Oliver Ames’ Eric MacKinnon’s three pointer bounced out as time expired, the Stoughton High fans stormed the court to celebrate a 79-76 win over their Davenport Division rival Oliver Ames.
In the most anticipated game of the year, the Stoughton Black Knights (9-6, 6-0 in the Davenport) and the Oliver Ames Tigers (9-6, 4-2 in the Davenport) faced off in a grueling game that went into quadruple-overtime and easily exceeded pregame expectations.
Calixte led the way for the Black Knights, dropping a career-high 38 points, playing stellar defense, and setting up teammates along the way.
“They were in man and there wasn’t much help,” Calixte said. “I was getting to the hoop, I was getting fouled and making my free throws.”
Though he normally makes a living draining three pointers, Calixte found success over and over by driving to the basket.
“The [against Oliver Ames], I was on fire,” Calixte added. “I knew they were going to play tight on me because they expected me to shoot. I took a couple in the first half and they covered it well, so I started going to the hoop.”
Trailing 43-39 with just over a minute to go in regulation, senior captain Kris Joyce took a charge and mounted a quick comeback for the Black Knights. Six seconds later, Joyce hit a layup off the glass and then with 42 seconds to go, sophomore Marcus Middleton finished a layup on a nice feed from Calixte to tie the game at 43.
“The biggest thing for us was that we found a way to survive,” Stoughton head coach John Gallivan said. “We survived the first half when we couldn’t find the basket. We survived the second half when we got down pretty big. We got it into overtime. We were losing in every single overtime to start out and we just hung in there.”
For the entirety of all four overtimes, neither team led by more than three points and it was constant back-and-forth action.
“This game is always a rock fight, it’s never pretty,” Gallivan said. “But from a competitive standpoint, it’s always awesome. I think all four of our games the last two years have come down to the last possession and that’s an amazing statistic.”
Joyce, who finished with 19 hard-earned points, was proud of the effort his team put forth.
“I think we played great,” Joyce said. “We played hard, we fought all the way to the end. We could have settled but we kept playing hard.”
The senior captain continued doing what he has been doing all year long: guarding guys that are taller than him.
“I like doing it, it makes me play more competitive,” Joyce said.
“Kris’ athleticism is really good for us,” Calixte said. “It helps us a lot since we’re a small team. He could play defense on anybody.”
Joyce, fresh off his on Saturday in a , had a chance to win it in triple overtime. With just 4.5 seconds in the third extra period, Joyce stepped to the line with his team trailing by one, 70-69. The crowd was stunned when he missed his first attempt, but his head coach wasn’t questioning Joyce’s confidence.
“Nope, not one bit. Kris does not let things faze him,” Gallivan said. “That’s how he is. He missed that shot, probably forgot all about it, stepped up to the line, said ‘I’m going to hit this’ and give us another chance.”
Joyce calmly took the ball, dribbled, reached behind his head and sank the second attempt, tying the game at 70 and sending it into the unprecedented fourth overtime.
“I was just thinking I have to make the next one, and I did it,” Joyce said.
Middleton, who was coming off one of his best offensive performances of the season, contributed with 11 points but made his biggest contributions on defense.
“Marcus is a great defender,” Calixte said. “He’s always been our number one defender.”
Middleton had his hands full with OA junior Nick Bruha, who scored 21 points, but helped limit OA sophomore St. Clair Ryan to just one point.
“You might think Marcus is having a quiet night and then he sneaks away and gets a fast break layup or hits a big shot and knocks down his foul shots,” Gallivan said. “He’s a fantastic foul shooter so he’s a great guy to have out there. And he never comes out, if you notice in the overtimes, he was an ironman.”
Senior starter Atticus Rentsch was again limited because of a leg contusion he suffered against Franklin this past Friday.
“Atticus is really hobbling with the contusion on his leg,” Gallivan said. “He’s trying his hardest, but he’s having trouble getting up and down the court. That pace tonight was just a little too fast for him, and he understands that. He would never want to do anything to hurt the team.”
With Rentsch hurt, Gallivan turned to freshman Joey Wilder, who is averaging 7 points in the past two games.
“Joey played like he stopped being a freshman about a week ago,” Gallivan said. “He’s just a varsity basketball player now.”
Wilder scored 6 points but was a major contributor on the boards, fighting for almost every ball and coming away with numerous rebounds.
“We went to Joey a lot more than we were anticipating and he came up big,” Gallivan said. “He made a couple of freshman mistakes but that’s what freshmen do. He made a couple huge plays [and] got us some big rebounds.”
The two teams played in front of a packed house, with fans from both schools well represented and showing support throughout the game.
“The atmosphere is second to none,” Gallivan said. “They have great fans, we have great fans. This is something that these kids will never see duplicated.”
“It’s tournament atmosphere is what it is,” Oliver Ames head coach Don Byron said. “With what was on the line here tonight for both teams, both teams understand the importance of it and all that goes with it.”
On Friday, Stoughton will look to clinch a playoff birth as they host Davenport Division rival Sharon. Stoughton will be honoring their seniors in a ceremony before the game.
“I told them to enjoy it tonight and when they come back to practice to begin focusing on Sharon,” Gallivan said. “It’s senior night and it’s our last home game of the year and it will be a great atmosphere here.”