WRENTHAM, Mass. – Throughout the game, Stoughton had struggled to score against King Philip’s half-court defense. So with 37 seconds left, holding a three-point lead and in need of some insurance, the Black Knights found a way to get an easy bucket.
Coming out of a timeout after a near turnover and the inbounds at midcourt, Stoughton sent three of its players down one end of the court and kept Colin Sanda (17 points, 10 rebounds) alone in one half. The Warriors’ defense lined up in man-to-man, allowing Cam Andrews to get the ball into Sanda.
It seemed like a normal inbounds play into the backcourt, but that was only because of how the Black Knights lined up. Sanda was, in fact, in his offensive half and took the feed down for a wide-open layup with just 30 seconds to play.
That bucket, along with some late free throws, gave Stoughton enough of a cushion to hang on for a 60-55 win on the road.
The Black Knights led by as much as 11 in the fourth quarter and had a nine-point lead with just two minutes to go before King Philip made a late charge. Kyle Layman (23 points, eight rebounds) scored inside and Brendan Kinghit a pair of free throws to make it a five-point game, 55-50.
Stoughton hit a free throw to extend it to six but Layman collected three points (free throw, field goal off Bruce Santillus’ offensive rebound) to make it a one-possession game, 56-53, with just under a minute to play.
That’s when Stoughton ran its play to Sanda for an easy two to keep the lead. King Philip once again got it down to three on an offensive putback but David Bell (career-high 19 points, 13 rebounds) hit free throws down the stretch to ice it.
While the inbounds play and free throws iced the game for Stoughton, it was the Black Knights’ full-court pressure defense and strong rebounding that really put them in position to win in the first place.
“We played with some energy tonight,” said Stoughton head coach John Gallivan. “We were a little shorthanded tonight and I think they recognized that so they picked each other up. We were trying to mix the defense up with some zone, some scramble, some straight man-to-man. After a while, we just stuck with what we were using and it ended up being enough.”
The Knights’ pressure really started paying off in the third quarter, and even more so when King Philip’s starting point guard Pharoah Davis had to leave the game for a stretch due to a head injury.
Stoughton outscored KP 15-9 over the final six minutes of the third. Trailing 29-25, Stoughton forced a turnover that led to a triple from Bell. Stoughton had a miss a possession later but Sanda flew in for an offensive rebound and easy putback. Layman tied the game with a traditional three-point play but Stoughton finished the frame with a 7-0 burst.
After another miss, Ruben Gonzalez came in for an offensive rebound and putback, Sanda made a jumper after KP missed the front end of a one-and-one, Andrews hit the first of two free throws for a 38-34 lead, and then Steevens Phelimond hauled in Andrews’ miss on the second attempt and put it back for a 40-34 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
“The press is trying to get them out of a rhythm, get turnovers, its all of the above,” Gallivan said. “But we can’t score on their set defense, they are too long. When we tried, it looked awful. But when we got out in transition, and even though it might seem like a quick shot, it was the best shot. The press can make you or break you but I thought we got enough out of it to stay in it. Even at the end, we backed it up some but stayed in it just to slow them down and make them think a little bit. If that game went on for 30 more seconds, who knows.”
Stoughton started the fourth when it forced a turnover and Andrews found Bell for an easy two. Layman answered with a triple and Stoughton missed its ensuing shot, but once again Sanda came flying in unguarded and converted the putback.
Holding a 44-38 lead, Stoughton’s effort on the offensive glass paid off once again. Its first shot missed but Bell grabbed the board and put it back up while being fouled. He sank the free throw for a 47-38 lead with 5:39 to play.
Stoughton won the rebounding battle, 45-31.
“I thought all of the putbacks were huge because maybe the original shot wasn’t a great one, but the putbacks were key,” Gallivan said. “I thought Sanda really started that whole thing, he got a couple early on. I said the kids before the game that if they win the rebounding battle that you’ll win this game. We know long shots mean long rebounds and those go to the quicker team.”
The Black Knights used the full press from the beginning of the game and forced 10 turnovers in the first half. While only four of those came in the first quarter, Stoughton’s defense mainly focused King Philip into bad shots. The Warriors shot just 24% in the first eight minutes (4-for-17) while going 0-for-4 from three-point range.
Though King Philip’s offense struggled to find a rhythm, its defense kept them in the game and in the lead. Even though Stoughton made nearly half of their shots in the opening quarter, the Black Knights turned the ball over 11 times and trailed 11-9 after one.
Stoughton took a lead, 14-13, on a triple from Phelimond but Santillus (17 points, 11 rebounds) caught fire to bring the hosts back in front. He converted a feed from King for two, drained a three on a feed from Tim Nault, and after Layman and Sanda traded basket, the junior splashed in another shot from downtown. Andrew McKinney capped the run with a runner to give KP a 25-16 edge.
But the Black Knights refused to go away, closing the half on a 6-0 run to get within three at the break. Bell contributed three straight points and Andrews drilled a three with two minutes to go. Neither team scored in the final two minutes of the half.
“It was 25-22 at halftime, there really wasn’t a lot of rhythm,” said KP head coach Mark Champagne. “We lost Pharoah for a stretch in the third, and then the other guys were tentative against it so [the press] did hurt us. Pharoah can create more against it so not having him hurt. But I thought our shot selection was poor, I thought we really regressed on that. We had the wrong guys shooting the ball, just because they were open doesn’t make it the best shot.
“I told them if anybody asks what happened, tell them you were poorly coached because you really looked like it tonight, they really did it. We had mental lapses. We wanted to foul coming out of a timeout and we didn’t. We have a major focus problem. Kyle did a good job in his first game back, he was tired but he sucked it up, no issues with him. They had a lot of offensive rebounds, not so much by big guys cause they don’t have much. [Sanda] got a couple extra ones, again mental lapses from us not boxing out. We just can’t seem to get out of the gate, it’s frustrating.”
While KP’s defense focused on Andrews (eight points), Sanda and Bell picked up the slack. Sanda tied a career-high while Bell set a new mark. Both had double-digit rebounds as well.
“We need that balance,” Gallivan said, who also got seven points and solid defense from senior Justin Ly. “It can’t be one guy, no matter who the one guy is. Our best games are when its spread out among three guys. And it could be any three guys. Ruben did it earlier this season against Randolph, it just shows it can be anyone. It was good to see other guys step up and help Cam out because they obviously focused a lot on Cam.”