STOUGHTON, Mass. – It was win or go home for the Oliver Ames boys basketball team on Monday night.
Paced by a career-high 28 points from junior Carter Evin and two 20-plus point quarters, Oliver Ames notched a 74-55 win over Stoughton and punched its ticket to the postseason.
With the win, the Tigers extended it to 13 straight playoff appearances.
“I couldn’t be happier with what’s going on here,” Oliver Ames head coach Don Byron said. “Coming back this year the highest kid [returning] on the food chain was [Shawn] Cardoza and there were a couple of kids who backed up others and had to work really hard to get on the floor. To think that they are here right now, that’s not typical. There will be teams that sneak in on the last night that are flawed but I think we’re playing pretty well. We’re finding multiple ways to score, we’re getting contributions from more kids as we go along and we’re starting to see them mature right in front of us.”
Stoughton rallied to take a lead in the early the second quarter via an 11-4 run but the Tigers dominated the final five minutes. OA scored 21 points the rest of the way with six guys contributing to the run. Evin scored six in the stretch with Nick Welch and Dylan Mahoney each adding five and Shawn Cardoza, Tim Kelley and Connor Maroney each chipping in. OA took a 42-33 lead in into the break.
The third quarter was better defensively for both sides with OA holding a slight edge, 11-9. A pair of threes from Jared Costa-Haywood brought the Black Knights within seven but OA answered with a free throw from Evin and a corner three from Kelley to push the lead back to double-digits.
“This didn’t just fall together, the kids really worked at it in the offseason and put a lot of time in,” Byron said. “It’s nice to see it pay off. Having so many seniors last year, these guys didn’t have as many opportunities as before as you do in a typical year.”
The Tigers closed the door early in the fourth quarter. Nick Welch drained a three to open the quarter, Evin secured an offensive rebound and putback and then pulled up for a corner three and Mahoney’s layup capped a 10-2 to open the first two minutes of the final quarter.
“They don’t want to go home,” Byron said. “They’re a close group, they like playing with each other. They sincerely like each other. You could sense that they weren’t in any hurry to get out of here.
“We’ve played a lot of teams tough like Franklin, Foxboro, and Sharon. The league helps us out in games like this. I don’t think we’re a typical 10-10 team, I think we’re a little better than that. The league will make you rise up to what you have to do. We’ve had 10-10 teams before where we were covering some stuff. We’re not covering quite as much with this group.”
Midway through the final quarter the Tigers built a 20 point lead and were able to pull their starters with a couple minutes to play in the game.
“We’re a streaky team and sometimes those streaks are good and sometimes they’re bad,” Stoughton head coach John Gallivan said. “When we looked at the shot chart at halftime, they were getting whatever they wanted in the paint. We just didn’t defend. The goal was the make it hard for them to score and we didn’t. OA has absolutely come a long way in terms of their offense this season but to give up 42 points in the first half is very disillusioning. The kids played better defense in the third quarter but we need to combine that with scoring and we just didn’t.
“Hats off to them, they finished the season strong and deserve to go to the tournament. They’ll be a tough out for someone.”
Despite a .500 record, the Tigers have been one of the top defensive teams in the league and entered Monday’s contest allowing 54.9 points per game, third best in the Hockomock. Beyond allowing 20 points in the second quarter, OA limited Stoughton to 13 in the first and fourth and nine in the third quarter.
“We’ve been pretty good defensively,” Byron said. “We seem to get a kid every year we can put in that lock down position. Charlie Ryan this year has been great, he plays everyone from the one to the four, wherever we feel we have to give attention too. His brother [St. Clair] was a terrific defender too. It’s nice, you don’t have to do all the scheming to shut down one player. You can just put your guy on him and feel comfortable.”
Evin led all scorers with 28 points, completing the double-double with 10 rebounds. Mahoney added 15 points, Welch had 11 points and Kelley added 10 points.
“He’s had an unbelievable second half [of the season],” Byron said of Evin. “He’s another one that was on the team last year but was 10 or 11 in the rotation. He’s a talented kid, he’s got good skills and athleticism. His big thing was transitioning from a nice pierce to being the guy. He’s really done that well over the second half of the season, he’s been terrific.”
Costa-Haywood led the Black Knights with 17 points, Cam Gomes had 12 points and Cam Andrews chipped in with 10 points. Senior captain Nick Quattrucci hauled in seven rebounds.
Oliver Ames boys basketball finishes the regular season at 10-10 and will await seeding in the MIAA D2 South tournament, due out on Friday. Stoughton wraps up its season at 7-13.
Ryan Lanigan can be contacted at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.
Ryan Lanigan is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of HockomockSports.com. You can contact him at RyanLanigan@hockomocksports.com and follow him on Twitter at @R_Lanigan.