In a very competitive girls basketball game, involving long-time rivals Canton High and Stoughton High, the outcome was not decided until the game’s final moment. The two young teams battled throughout the contest in a close encounter.
With Stoughton trailing, 42-40, the Black Knights had one last possession, with 20 seconds remaining, and an opportunity to tie or win the game. The defense was equal to the task when junior forward Olivia Murphy came up with a steal. The Bulldogs sealed Stoughton’s fate with a made free throw in the final second to account for the 43-40 final score.
“Our defense kept us in the game, but our offense had its chances, and we couldn’t hit the outside shot or get that basket that would put us in the lead,” said Stoughton Coach Janet Sullivan. “In that final possession, it would have been nice to at least get the shot off, but you have to give credit to Canton. They made the plays at both ends late in the game to win.”
Canton has qualified for a Division-3 South Sectional post-season berth. The Bulldogs raised their record to over the .500 mark, at 9-8, (6-7 league and 4-4 in the Davenport (small schools) Division. Stoughton after a 0-6 start, has improved tremendously, but falls to 4-11 overall, with a 3-11 league mark and 1-7 record in the Davenport Division.
Before the game, Stoughton honored its five seniors and Sullivan had nothing but praise for the graduating quintet. Nicole Beauregard is only 5’3”, but often has to play forward and her intelligence and heart helps her to perform well against taller and stronger opponents.
Tahira Peralta is from Haiti and is a gifted athlete and is the heart and soul of the team. Last year, Peralta was playing basketball in her high school gymnasium in Haiti, when the tragic earthquake hit. Thankfully, she survived, and then moved to Stoughton. She has made a wonderful adjustment and is a fine low-post player.
Shannon Manning played as a freshman, moved away, and has returned for her senior year. Manning displays hustle and never quits. Sydnee Jackson is a gifted athlete and person and a valuable starter at forward. Finally, there is co-captain, guard Molly Zuk. Zuk is a true leader, motivator and is Class President, with a wonderful future waiting for her, both on and off the court.
The first time these teams played, at Canton earlier this season, it was an offensive display, with the Bulldogs taking command late in an 81-58 victory. In this contest, Canton’s rally came early, as it jumped out to a quick 16-6 advantage, entering the second quarter. Stoughton could only cut into the deficit by one point, in the second quarter, and trailed the Bulldogs, 24-15 at halftime.
Stoughton would continue to battle back, outscoring Canton, 15-8, in the third quarter, and slash the lead to 32-30, entering the final eight minutes. Stoughton would have four chances to tie or take the lead in the fourth quarter, but its outside shooting couldn’t convert. The Black Knights also put themselves in a hole, missing 14 free throws throughout the contest, which was the deciding factor of the game.
“Our free throw shooting and outside shooting cost us this game,” said Sullivan. “We still were able to show how much that we’ve improved, in the second half of the season. We work real hard and I’m thrilled about our effort.”
Stoughton would again be led by junior captain Chrystal Holland, who had 14 points and was a force in the paint. Sophomore center Nicole Daniels continued her rapid improvement adding ten points.
Down the stretch, it was the confident and poised Canton team that made the shots and the good decisions to cling to the lead that it would never relinquish. Murphy was the game’s high-scorer with 15 points. Alana Pitts-Anaya, a junior guard, added eight points, including seven of the team’s 11 fourth quarter points and an important free throw in the game’s final minute.
“We get a lot of players to contribute and are balanced with our inside game and outside game,” said Canton Coach Kaitlin Mills.
Senior guard Nicki Fralick, who recently returned from an injury, added nine points, while sophomore guard Lauren Berman added seven points, including the final free throw to assure the victory.
“We may have a lot of underclassmen that play a lot of minutes, but they are all experienced and know how to win the close games,” said Mills. “We play with poise and make the right decisions with very good shot selection which has helped us win some very close games, just like the ones that we could be involved in during the upcoming (post-season) tournament.”
Both teams have three games remaining, in the regular season, with each hosting a crossover Hockomock Game on Friday at 4:00 p.m. against a team from the Kelly-Rex (large schools) Division that finished in the same position. The teams conclude the regular season next week, with Canton traveling to the Westwood Tournament for two games, and Stoughton going to the Sharon Tournament for a pair of contests.