STOUGHTON, Mass. – At this stage of the season, every win is important, as teams are chasing tournament qualification. On Tuesday night, Stoughton and Taunton played with the urgency of two teams that could ill-afford another loss. It was physical, it was back-and-forth, and it was only decided in the closing minute.
The Black Knights were happy that they had senior guard Shyanne Trinh to turn to down the stretch. Trinh scored 18 of her team-high 20 points in the second half, including 12 in the fourth quarter and five of the game’s final eight points. Her runner broke a 60-60 tie and proved to be the game-winner.
Thanks in part to Trinh’s fourth quarter heroics, Stoughton pulled out a 68-60 victory over the visiting Tigers. The win leaves the Black Knights chasing three wins from their final five games to try and book a spot in the postseason.
“Our team persevered tonight,” said Stoughton coach Charmaine Steele Jordan. “They fought hard. We’ve had a couple of losses that were really hard to swallow and I was proud of them that they worked hard. I told them, it’s not going to be handed to us. Yes you’re talented but you have to put in work.”
She added, “Taunton came back at us and we responded. Sometimes team come back at you and you start to hurry and get on your heels, but they stayed composed.”
Trinh managed only two points in the first half, but the team’s leading scorer got it going after the break. She scored six points in the third and showed signs of finding the range, as the hosts went into the fourth leading 46-44.
She drilled a pair of threes early in the fourth to help extend the lead to as many as six. After Sonya Fernandez (who scored 22 of her 23 points in the second half, including 12 of her own in the fourth) drilled a three to put Taunton ahead for the first time since the first quarter, Mackenzie Manning (12 points) answered with a triple of her own to make it 58-56.
A series of free throws left the game tied at 60, when Trinh beat her marker off the dribble, got into the lane, and knocked down a runner to put the Black Knights ahead for good. After a pair at the line from Jess Maddalena (seven points and seven rebounds), Aliyah Wright (17 points, 12 rebounds, and five assists) found Trinh behind the Taunton defense for a wide open layup that sealed the win.
“She was really long initially and I wanted to say to her, just step in, but you know a shooter, she’s just got to shoot the wrinkles off and second half she’ll start hitting,” Steele Jordan about Trinh’s fourth quarter.
The Tigers kept battling back in the fourth as well. Fernandez was immense in the second half, keeping her team in the game and showing off a full repertoire on offense, from scoring in the paint to stepping outside and knocking down threes.
“She’s a leader on this team,” Taunton coach Amy Siggens said about Fernandez. “We’ve worked on her inside-outside game and when she starts to feel it, you just sit back and say alright lets go and see where this takes us. She’s really, really stepped up her game.”
In the first quarter, Stoughton showed off some of its depth to grab the lead. Manning drilled a three and scored off the dribble, Maddalena grabbed an offensive board for two, and with Stoughton holding just a three-point lead Cate Downey came off the bench to knock down a pair from beyond the arc and extend the advantage to 20-11 after one.
“We’ve talked a lot about how we can’t rely just on Shy and Aliyah,” said Steele Jordan. “There’s other players on our team that can contribute on a regular basis, whether it’s rebounding or shooting. I’m like you guys wouldn’t be on my varsity team if I didn’t think you could play. They’re finally starting to get that confidence.”
Taunton would battled back with an 8-1 run to start the second quarter. Kameron St. Pierre (22 points and 10 rebounds) scored five points during that stretch and fellow freshman Maddy Michenzie (10 rebounds) grabbed an offensive board and putback to make it 21-19.
Jaelyn Fernandez (nine points and six assists) scored four in the second and assisted on St. Pierre’s third three of the half to tie the game at 27, but Stoughton again finished the quarter well. Maddalena hit two at the line and then blocked a shot at the other end. Downey grabbed the loose ball and threw an outlet to Wright for a transition basket and a four-point lead at the break.
The Stoughton lead never got larger than five in the third quarter, as the teams kept trading baskets. Sonya Fernandez heated up in the third with 10 points, but Stoughton always had an answer. After Fernandez nailed a three on one end, Trinh scored on the break. When St. Pierre drilled one, Wright responded with a three of her own. Taunton was able to trim two points off the lead but went into the fourth down 46-44.
Taunton would rue some missed opportunities in the final quarter, as they continued to crash the boards and give themselves multiple opportunities, but were unable to cash in on those chances.
“This was a very physical, tough game and I think that got into our head a little bit,” said Siggens. “We get it and we’re not always focused on the win. It’s about developing. You want to ease people into it but you can’t sometimes and you have to throw people to wolves and see how they react.”
She added, “The cuts we’re making, the passes we’re making, we’re doing the right things, now the the next step is finishing.”
Stoughton (7-8, 4-7) will host North Attleboro on Friday night, trying to split the season series with the Rocketeers and move another step closer to a playoff berth. Taunton (4-9, 3-8) will play host to Oliver Ames on Friday.
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