Consider this: the Black Knights trailed 23-4 after eight minutes of action, entered the fourth quarter down by 15 points, and were up against a seven-point deficit with 11.9 seconds to play.
Even after overcoming all of that, Stoughton trailed by two possessions with just over a minute to play in overtime. In fact, Stoughton did not have a lead for 35:50 of the 36 minutes played.
And yet, a basket from sophomore Liam Pearl with 10 seconds to play in the extra period not only gave the Black Knights their first and only lead of the game, it gave Stoughton an improbable 69-68 win over rival Canton.
“We just had to be tougher, we had to play tougher,” said second-year Stoughton head coach Evan Taylor. “The first half we probably missed 20-something shots and only have three offensive rebounds. We weren’t working hard enough. [Canton] came in here and outworked us to start. We had a good talk at halftime, you know there is no 20-point basket. It was all about one possession at a time: score and then get a stop. And we wanted to put some pressure on them.”
Fast forward to the fourth quarter,
Stoughton had chipped away at Canton’s once 15-point lead, outscoring the Bulldogs with a 12-4 run.
Cashmere Mathurin (10 points, six rebounds) scored on a baseline cut, Connor Andrews (21 points, eight rebounds) drained a deep, contested three, and Rayan Sablon (13 points) converted an offensive board to make it 55-48, cutting Canton’s lead (that peaked at 23 in the first half) down to seven with just 4:49 to go.
A three-point play from Canton’s Nate Mei with three minutes to go seemed to stem the tide for a stretch. Stoughton chipped away, two free throws from Mathurin made it a one-possession game with under a minute to go but Mei sank two from the line, Lanse Dorcelus added two more from the line, and the Bulldogs came up with a steal holding a 62-55 lead with 11.9 seconds left.
A miss on the front end of the one-and-one gave Stoughton hope and Andrews delivered, draining a side-step three while being fouled, sinking the free throw for a four-point play that made it 62-59 with 4.2 seconds left.
Stoughton’s full-court pressure resulted in a deep heave from Canton on the inbound that was tracked down instead by Sablon. An inbounds over half and quick timeout allowed Stoughton to advance the ball, setting up a chance with an inbounds pass from in front of its own bench with 2.7 seconds to go.
Sablon lobbed it to Mathurin, who caught it and dished it off to Andrews, who came curling around a screen from Jonah Ly, all in one motion. Andrews threw up an off-balance three and hit nothing but net as the buzzer sounded to send it to overtime, 62-62.
“That was a great play by [assistant coach] Mike Manning, that was a great call,” Taylor said. “Sometimes you have to go with the guy that has been getting it done for you even if people know. I’m sure [Canton], I’m sure everyone in the while gym knew we were. But you have to trust him and he has everyone’s respect on the team, he’s the guy you want to take that shot.”
Canton had a perfect start to the extra period with a three from Lanse Dorcelus, who scored a career-high 26 points. The Bulldogs got consecutive stops and two free throws from Dorcelus pushed the lead to 67-62. After trading empty possessions and some missed free throws from both sides, Andrews made it 68-64 with 1:35 to go.
Canton had a turnover on the rebound which led to another free throw from Pearl, making it a one-possession game at 68-65. Full court pressure resulted in a backcourt call and Pearl drove to the basket for two, 68-67 with just under a minute to go.
After trading turnovers, Canton was off on a pair of free throws and the Black Knights went back to Pearl, who muscled his way down the lane for two and Stoughton’s first lead, 69-68.
Canton had one more chance off of inbound on the baseline with one second left, but Pearl anticipated the shot and blocked it.
“It just felt like the tale of two halves, two different games,” said first-year Canton head coach Eric MacKinnon. “We couldn’t have shot it much better in the first quarter and part of that second. We knew we probably wouldn’t be able to maintain that 20-point lead but we thought we could hold them off enough to finish it off. In the end, they made some really good plays and we made some really untimely plays.
“The press killed us at times and got them some easy buckets and they got their momentum going. We told them going in that we needed to control the tempo. We knew they’d have some runs but they sped us up and we took some quick shots. But even still, you get to overtime and you’re up five at one point, that’s a game we should finish, and tonight we didn’t.”
It was a dream start for the visitors, who were firing on all cylinders over the first eight minutes. Mei, Dillon Nguyen (10 points), Matt Chafin (12 points, 11 rebounds), and Dorcelus all hit from downtown and the Bulldogs shot nearly 70% from the floor.
On the other side, Stoughton had four turnovers and went just 2-for-13 from the floor as the visitors established a 23-4 advantage.
Canton hit four more threes in the second though including one from Jacob Solomon and one from Conor Hunter (five points, 10 rebounds), the latter giving Canton its largest lead at 32-9. But Stoughton closed with a 15-5 run, getting four points from each Sablon, Ly, and Josh Rivera in the frame, to make it 37-24 at the half.
A back-and-forth third quarter helped Canton keep its double-digit advantage, taking a 15-point lead — 51-36 — into the final quarter.
Stoughton ended up with 26 points in the fourth quarter and only committed four turnovers compared to Canton’s eight. The Black Knights forced Canton into four more turnovers in overtime.
Both teams are back in action on Tuesday as Stoughton (2-2 Hockomock, 2-2 overall) entertains undefeated Mansfield while Canton (1-3, 1-4) hosts Taunton.