Photos by Justin Braga and Jeffrey Pickette. Check out a video interview with Mackenzie McGrath, Emma Zuk, Nicole Daniels and Marlena Siegel in the media gallery of this article.
With the Stoughton High girls' basketball team locked in a close game with Canton, leading the Bulldogs 14-11 about midway through the second quarter, the Black Knights went to a zone press on defense, and the pressure caused all sorts of trouble for the visitors, with Stoughton going on a 14-0 run to end the quarter, taking a 28-11 lead at the half.
The run propelled Stoughton to a dominating 48-27 victory over Davenport Division rival Canton Friday at SHS.
"We switched to some pressure defense, we brought in our zone press, got a couple of quick steals, couple of quick turnovers and then the momentum just started taking over," Stoughton coach Janet Sullivan said. "We played a stretch of very good basketball. We got the ball inside, we were getting it outside."
"We really had been struggling in the first quarter," Sullivan continued. "We were getting good opportunities and missing them...we needed something to get us going and the press did that and then we were pretty much on cruise control from there."
With the win, Stoughton improves to 6-2, while Canton falls to 1-6.
Nicole Daniels led Stoughton with 14 points, 20 rebounds, 4 steals and 4 blocks.
While Daniels is usually one of Stoughton's leading scorers every game, "it's her defense every night that I really value," Sullivan said.
"She's been an immense presence in the key for us all year. Her defense really allows us to do a lot of things and it usually is the start of our offense," Sullivan said. "She'll block a shot, she deflects shot, she just alters the offenses that [opposing] teams run and of course she controls the boards and when we control the boards then we can go down the other end."
Friday night also marked the return of senior Marlena Siegel, who has been out since last May with a torn ACL and meniscus in her left knee. She sustained the injury playing AAU basketball and after more than seven months of working to get back on the court, she was able to do so, and had 8 points off the bench.
"Marlena has worked as hard as anyone I've ever seen. She worked in the off season, she got herself in shape, she's been very smart. We've taken our time bringing her along and tonight she was ready to go, put her in, and immediately she [forces] a turnover, has an assist," Sullivan said.
"She just has the heart of the lion and you saw it tonight," Sullivan continued. "We're really happy to have her back."
Ariene Ohimor added 5 points and 13 rebounds. Ohimor, Daniels and Kayla Motley (2 points, 4 rebounds) combined for 37 rebounds, including 16 on the offensive end.
Mackenzie McGrath had 6 points, 4 assists and 2 steals, and Emma Zuk had 4 points 2 assists and 1 steal.
Stoughton hosts Mansfield on Tuesday, before hosting Oliver Ames next Friday, Jan. 18.