STOUGHTON, Mass. – Although Stoughton entered the playoffs on a roll, having won 11-of-12 games since a 1-7 start to the season, the Black Knights are a young and relatively inexperienced crew and there is a different feel to postseason play.
In front of a packed house and a vocal home support, Stoughton came out of the gates a little rushed and struggled to pull away from ninth seed Dighton-Rehoboth, leading by just five at the break. After halftime, the Black Knights looked like the team that rolled through the end of the season.
Stoughton held D-R to just six points in the third quarter and used a 16-0 run to break the game wide open and push the lead to as many as 22 points in a 52-35 win that advances the Black Knights to the Div. 2 South quarterfinal.
“Once they took a deep breath, I said listen, this half is ours,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan. “I said, if you go out and defend the way I know you can defend, we’re turning the momentum in our favor and they rose to the occasion. We got deflections that gave us transition baskets, which gave us the confidence, and they just kept pushing.”
The Black Knights got off to an inconsistent start, jumping out to a 7-2 behind a pair of jumpers from Lindsay McDonald (eight points and six rebounds), but struggling to take care of the ball and allowing D-R to tie the game despite only making one shot from the floor in the first quarter.
“She is a spark and she can get deflections,” said Steele Jordan. “She does a good job reading the quarterback’s eyes and getting in the passing lanes. She’s a tough kid. I get on her, I push her, and the expectation for this program is that if you want to play then you need to show you’re going to bring it on the defensive end and she did that for us.”
The Falcons got off to a quick start to the second quarter with an 8-2 run giving the visitors a 15-13 lead. Freshman Sydnee Hyacinthe tied the game off a steal and pull-up jumper and Wright (10 points, eight rebounds, four steals, and four assists) gave the Black Knights back the lead with a transition basket. Hyacinthe drilled a three and then Harris got back-to-back steals and layups for four points in less than 10 seconds and a seven-point edge.
Steele Jordan said, “I knew there was going to be a lot of jitters, but I was confident that they could get it done. I knew we could win, we just needed to settle and get into a groove. We executed on offense and that’s key at this point in the season, you’ve got to execute.”
At halftime, the Black Knights settled down and it showed with a dominant third quarter.
“We went down to the locker and I just told everyone, we’re doing okay right now but we can do better definitely and we just need to slow down on offense,” Whalen said about the message to her teammates during the break. The message was well-received.
McDonald knocked down a jumper and senior Jordan Motley, who sat much of the first half with foul trouble, scored to push the lead to double digits. A three-point play and a three-pointer from the visitors, sandwiched around a pair of Whalen (eight points and 15 rebounds) free throws, cut the lead back down to six, but then Stoughton broke the game wide open.
Motley scored with a spinning layup off a Hyacinthe assist and then the freshman guard knocked down her second three of the game. McDonald capped the quarter with another jumper for a 13-point advantage.
The run continued in the fourth, as Wright scored plus a foul and followed it with an offensive rebound and put-back. Whalen added a three-point play and Hyacinthe pushed the lead to 22 points, 47-25, with a steal and layup and effectively put the game out of reach with half of the fourth quarter remaining.
“Coach always says it starts on defense and then it will happen on offense, shots will fall,” said Whalen. “If we have a good defensive half and then the next half will be offense.”
Steele Jordan added, “Your first playoff game is always the most challenging because you’ve just got to get over the nerves and we’re young…so for us, they just needed to take it all in. All of the atmosphere was an adjustment for my team and it was great to get that first ‘W’ at home.”
Stoughton (13-8) will now likely face a third meeting with Davenport division champion and top seed Foxboro, which won both meetings by double digits in the regular season. While the Warriors will be the favorites in the quarterfinal, Whalen for one is looking forward to getting a third crack and the league champion.
“We’ve just got to keep a positive attitude at all times,” she said. “My sister’s team beat Foxboro both times in the regular season [in 2014] and then they beat them in the playoffs, so I’m just expecting to go out there and have fun because it might be one of my last games playing.”