WALPOLE, Mass. -- For the second time in as many games, the Needham Rockets have knocked off a top 15 opponent.
After a 32-point victory over No. 6 Newton North last Thursday, Needham upset No. 11 Stoughton 53-49 in the first game of the Walpole Hoop Classic. Quite simply, the Rockets are playing their best basketball at the right time of the year.
“The Newton North game, senior night was excellent,” said Needham head coach Paul Liner. “I though we had great energy and the kids came out to play right from the beginning. There’s been some games where we kind of sit back and let things come to us, and I thing we’ve been the aggressor, gaining confidence and playing a complete game.”
The Rockets (14-5) were certainly the more aggressive team to start Sunday’s game verse Stoughton.
Junior forward Connor McLeod scored 16 of his game-high 26 points for the Rockets in the first quarter, boosting Needham to a 22-11 lead after the first.
The Black Knights (15-4) outscored the Rockets in the middle two quarters, holding Needham to just six points in the third quarter to tie it at 37 to start the final frame. However, Stoughton was held to just a 1 for 11 effort from the field in the fourth quarter.
Lanky D: The Rockets have a lot of size and length, which has helped them to hold opponents to just 46.7 points per game, the best defensive Record in the Bay State Conference.
“One of our game goals has been under 50,” said Liner. “We’ve been able to do that and holding teams to under 50 is really important.”
The big guys down low for Needham, Zach Nussbaum, Kevin Farley, John Madsen and Trevor Dow do a lot of the dirty work that won’t show up on stat sheets, but is vital for success. And they held Stoughton’s leading scorer Aaron Calixte to just six points on the evening.
“I knew we had three athletes that could play him really well, and he’s so dangerous with the ball.”
Another interesting matchup was Needham’s Shy Davis covering Stoughton’s Marcus Middleton.
Middleton finished with 12 points, but was held scoreless in the final quarter.
“He’s a great shooter,” Davis said of Middleton. “Marcus was a floater, so I just had to keep an eye on him. And I’m much taller and lankier than him so it was an easy cover.”
Needham will play Xaverian in the championship game of the Walpole tournament Monday at 7:45 at Walpole high school after the Hawks picked up their first win of the season 63-55 over the host’s Walpole.