By Josh Perry, Managing Editor
SHARON, Mass. – Heading into the fourth quarter, first-year Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan let her team know that she was frustrated. Jordan, one of the program’s all-time top scorers during her playing days, urged the Black Knights to compete for the name on the front of the jersey.
Stoughton got the message and turned around a four-point deficit in the fourth quarter at Sharon on Friday night to pull out a 52-49 victory that leaves the team just two wins away from a return to the state tournament.
“I was trying to get them pumped up and motivated and to really get over that mental toughness hump,” said Jordan. “It was great to see them rise to the occasion and be like okay, we’re not backing down.”
The Black Knights came out of the huddle with renewed energy to start the fourth quarter and it did not take them long to get back into the game. Bridgette Whalen knocked down the first of two free throws to cut the lead to three and then Alecia Quinones (17 points and 11 rebounds) snatched the miss to save the possession.
Quinones swung the ball around to the top of the circle and senior guard Sarah Quattrucci, who banked in a three-pointer to tie the game at 42-42.
Sharon responded quickly to regain the lead. Sophomore Shira Stoller (five assists) threw a perfect pass through the Stoughton zone to classmate Angela Wallace who finished the layup and was fouled.
Once again it was Quinones that made a big play for Stoughton. The league’s leading scorer (averaging more than 20 points per game) snatched a crosscourt pass and took it the length of the court for a layup that cut the lead back to one.
“She does a nice job reading the quarterback’s eyes,” said Jordan of Quinones, “and she’s got a nice feel for the game, so I’m glad she’s wearing orange and black.”
Jess Greer (game-high 18 points) buried her fourth three of the game to give the Black Knights the lead and Quinones made one of two free throws to make it 48-45. After Alyssa Piazza (11 points, seven rebounds) made to from the line, Wallace knocked down a pair to give the Eagles a one-point advantage. Wallace finished with a career-high 15 points to lead Sharon.
“She was playing AAU in the spring and fall and gained more confidence there,” said Sharon coach Cliff Tomassian of Wallace, who played on varsity as a freshman but was still mentally recovering from a torn ACL she suffered as an eighth grader.
“To see her come out tonight and finish like that and to hit her foul shots, which has been a real problem for her, was awesome to see.”
After an Ava Siegel free throw tied the game, Quinones snatched another defensive board and quickly looked ahead to Greer, who had leaked out, for an easy transition bucket that gave the Black Knights the lead for good.
“For us, there’s one thing I was screaming the whole game was we have to do it with our defense,” Jordan explained. “Teams are going to score but we still have to play tough defense and finish it with a rebound. It turned gears and clicked in and they were able to make it happen.”
When the game began, it looked like Stoughton might be able to run away with an easy win. The Black Knights jumped out to 7-0 lead behind four points from Quinones. Sharon, coming off a 40-point loss to Attleboro on Tuesday, looked shaky but after a timeout started to settle down and finished the quarter with a 7-0 run of its own.
The second quarter unexpectedly turned into a shootout. Sharon got off to a strong start thanks to two quick buckets from Stoller. The point guard started to look for her own shot and to find seams in the Stoughton zone off the dribble.
“I told her at halftime, I told her in the locker room, after halftime, after the game, look what happens when you go to the hoop,” said Tomassian. “When she steps up, we’re a lot better.”
Wallace also provided a spark in the second with six points, while freshman Emma Eberhardt added all four of her points in the quarter. Stoughton countered with its outside game.
Greer knocked down three of her four three-pointers in the second to give the Black Knights a spark and as halftime approached the visitors led by one, until Stoller knocked down a shot from just beyond half-court that put Sharon in front 28-26 at the break.
The third quarter was similar with the two teams trading blows. Quinones scored six in the third, but was matched by Piazza, who scored six of her 11 points in the quarter, and Stoller who knocked down a step-back, fall away jumper to put the Eagles up four.
“We got beat pretty good there in the second game of the season,” said Tomassian, referencing Stoughton’s 57-45 win in December. “I told them in the locker room that I couldn’t be more proud of how physical they played considering how out-matched we were. They battled the whole game.”
Stoughton (7-3, 7-2) rallied in the fourth quarter to pick up the win and to keep pace with Oliver Ames atop the Davenport standings. The Black Knights will face both league leaders next week starting with Mansfield on Tuesday. Sharon (3-8, 1-8) will try to bounce back against Fontbonne Academy on Sunday.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.