RANDOLPH, Mass. – With a pair of starters out, Stoughton head coach John Gallivan turned to senior Ruben Gonzalez to give the Black Knights a defensive spark.
Not only did Gonzalez deliver a pesky defensive performance (three steals), the senior connected on five three-pointers and poured in a career-high 19 points to help the Black Knights pick up their first win of the season, an 80-60 decision over Randolph in the first round of the Blue Devils Holiday Classic.
Stoughton will play Natick in the championship of the tournament on Saturday night.
“What a spark he was,” Gallivan said.
Gonzalez got Stoughton’s offense going early, scoring eight of the team’s 18 first-quarter points including a pair of triples. And when Randolph’s defense decided to face guard senior Cam Andrews (career-high 31 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) for the entire fourth quarter, Gonzalez helped put the game to rest with eight more points, again on a pair of threes.
And in the two middle quarters, Andres took care of business. He scored 13 of his points in the third quarter, helping the Knights turn a seven-point lead at the end of the first (18-11) into a 36-23 advantage going into the halftime break.
When Randolph had its best offensive quarter of the game, netting 24 points in the third quarter, Andrews was equal to the task, scoring 12 of his own in the quarter to keep the lead at 13 (60-47) heading into the final frame.
“I thought he did a good job of letting it come to him,” Gallivan said. “And I thought our kids did a nice job of finding him on offensive rebounds. That’s the most open he’s going to be when they reverse pivot and kick it out to him. One that comes to mind is when Alex Sjoquist ripped one and instead of a 5’9 kid going up against a 6’4 kid, he turned and found Cam.”
The Blue Devils got within seven points just over the midway point of the second quarter, but Stoughton rattled off a 13-4 run over a two and a half minute span to build the separation it needed for the rest of the game.
Gonzalez got the run started with his third triple, and Andrews blew by his defender with a strong take to the hoop for a layup. Stoughton’s press worked as Gonzalez came up with a steal in the Randolph backcourt and tossed up a pass for an easy alley-layup for Andrews.
After a Randolph timeout, the Blue Devils got back on the board with a layup but Stoughton had a quick answer. After a miss, Sjoquist pulled in the rebound and found Andrews for the three, plus the foul, for a four-point play. It was the play that Gallivan alluded to.
Stoughton capped the run when Gonzalez forced another turnover and Andrews finished at the rim once again.
Randolph cut the deficit to single digits once in the second half, midway through the third quarter, but five straight points from Andrews restored Stoughton’s comfortable lead.
Colin Sanda added 10 points, six rebounds and four assists for Stoughton while Steevens Phelimond (six points, five rebounds) and David Bell (five points, five rebounds) gave the Knights a presence in the paint.
“I think the important thing for us was to survive those first three Kelley-Rex games,” Gallivan said.
The Black Knights lost to Oliver Ames, Attleboro and Mansfield top begin the season; the three teams had a combined 9-3 record entering games on Thursday night.
“We actually had stretches where we played well against all three teams. If you lose those three games spread out over a couple of weeks, it’s no big deal. But you lose three in a row and it can seem like the sky is falling. These guys have done a good job of keeping their composure and doing things the way we want to do it. And I thought they played a full 32 minutes tonight, which was one of the focuses tonight. We’ve had good minutes, but not a full 32 until tonight.”
Stoughton boys basketball (0-3 Hockomock, 1-3 overall) will try to make it two in a row when it tips off against the Redhawks in the championship of the Blue Devils Holiday Classic on Saturday at 6:30.