BROCKTON, Mass. -- Stoughton's star point guard Aaron Calixte said before the game that losing wasn’t an option. His performance showed just how serious he was.
The junior poured in 22 points, and added eight assists and three steals, to lead the No. 4 seed Black Knights to a 68-42 victory over Hockomock league rival and ninth seeded Oliver Ames, in a Division 2 South semifinal at Brockton High.
“He’s pretty good,” Stoughton head coach John Gallivan joked. “He’s the kind of guy when he gets the ball, it’s kind of an ‘Uh-oh, who has to go guard him?’ When we spread the floor like that, it’s a tough match up for anybody.”
After a back-and-forth first quarter, Calixte’s partner-in-crime Marcus Middleton scored a quick five points to push Stoughton ahead 18-13 entering the second stanza. Calixte then took over with 10 points, outscoring the entire OA team himself.
The Black Knights received a career night from senior Antonio “Nuke” Ferreira, who put up 16 points (10 in the first quarter) and 15 rebounds -- 10 of which came on the offensive glass. Both totals were career highs. He also added four blocks.
“He got his points when we were having trouble getting them,” Gallivan said. “He gave us some room to breathe and to catch our breath and get out legs under us, and that was huge.”
The two rivals split the season series with each team winning on their home court and the Tigers with the victory in the second meeting –- something Gallivan thought was beneficial, saying the loss was “possibly” a blessing in disguise.
“It’s hard,” Gallivan said of beating a team on the third game. “It’s hard to beat a team in our league two times.”
Oliver Ames head skipper Don Byron said his team was used to scoring in the 60-point range, and credited the Black Knight defense on how they played. Gallivan also credited his team’s defensive adjustments from the two teams’ prior meeting as a key.
“One was to stop their sideline break which killed us last game,” Gallivan said. “The other thing was in their man-to-man sets, we had trouble with some of their flex stuff. We paid a lot more attention to detail on that. I thought we did a much better job tonight.
“Defense was the main focus all week. Last time we played them, they scored more points against us than anyone had all season. We just made a commitment to defense.”
Bruha Goes Out Fighting: Oliver Ames senior captain and 1,000-point scorer Nick Bruha didn’t get off to the best start, but he made sure he finished the game -- and his high school career -- strong.
Off a combination of cold shooting and solid defense from Middleton, Bruha entered halftime with just one field goal and a total of 4 points. There was no quit in the guard, who dropped 14 in the second half to finish out his last game in orange with 18 points.
“It’s going to be real odd not to have him in the gym,” Byron said. “He’s been running the team. When I came, he was a sophomore and he started every game for three years.”
In traditional fashion, Bruha found success in a number of ways, including his aggressive drives to the hoop and his three-point game.
“The next time I walk into the gym, he won’t be there,” Byron added. “I remember Nick as a five-year-old kid. He had a terrific career, a tremendous career.”
A Rivalry Continued: The semifinals matchup between these two Hockomock Davenport Division rivals was just another chapter in the storied history between these schools. With their home courts separated by less than seven miles, these kids have grown up playing with and against each other.
“This rivalry is history and it’s epic,” Gallivan said. “Every time we play, there’s a story, and tonight obviously went our way. There was no telling going into this game what was going to happen.”
As soon as each of these teams won last week, they each eagerly tried to find out if their rival would be their next opponent. When they did, the hype began. And when it was all said it done, with Stoughton putting their mark on this chapter, it was hard to describe how it felt for Ferreira.
“I can’t, it’s like unexplainable,” he said. “And plus we’re going to the finals. It’s crazy.”
Role Players Fill in Nicely With the attention normally focused in on Calixte and Middleton, Ferreira stepped in nicely, but he wasn’t the only one. Junior Steffan Jackson -- who missed the majority of the teams’ second meeting, and the following three weeks -- grabbed 13 rebounds (6 offensive) and added two blocks.
“Steffan missed the last time against these guys,” Gallivan said. “That’s the big part of our team. He’s been the missing link the last couple of games. Having him back is huge.”
Stoughton also saw sophomore Mike Gallagher and senior Raymond Bowdre come in throughout the game and play an important part. Gallagher got an offensive rebound and floated in a runner to put the Black Knights up by 11 in the second and then went on to hit a three at the buzzer of the third quarter.
Up Next: Stoughton will now play Hopkinton High in the D2 South Finals on Saturday at UMass-Boston's Clark Athletic Center. The Hillers are coming off a thrilling 64-62 win over Wellesley tonight in the other D2 South semifinal, at Taunton High.
And in case we need another reminder that Hopkinton is the defending D2 South champ, they knocked out No. 2 seed and would-be state title contender King Philip in the quarterfinals.