STOUGHTON, Mass. -– With just over a minute and a half to play, Stoughton senior Marcus Middleton found himself on a contested breakaway with his team down one point.
When Middleton went up to the basket, he was met by a thunderous block from Sharon’s Brian Lawrence, who was able to not only block the shot but keep possession for the Eagles.
Sharon couldn’t convert though and after Stoughton junior Joey Wilder pulled down an offensive rebound, he found a wide-open Middleton from behind the arc.
“No one in this league wants to see a wide-open Marcus,” Stoughton head coach John Gallivan said.
Middleton drained the three and made key free throws to beat Sharon 58-55 in Hockomock Davenport Division play. Stoughton gets back even at 6-6 while Sharon lost their third straight game to go to 7-6.
Sharon took a 5-point lead into the final frame at 47-42, and extended it to as much as eight at 54-46, but shot themselves in the foot, shooting a dismal 3-12 from the field, and just 2-5 from the charity strike.
“Self-destruction,” Sharon head coach Bruce Jackman said. “Missed layups and missed foul shots. They didn’t do anything to cause us any commotion. We just did it ourselves.”
Middleton finished with a game-high 21 points, the last seven coming late in the fourth quarter.
“Honestly I had no idea what the score and time was,” Middleton said. “Joey [Wilder] kicked it out to me for an open shot. Coach told me to shoot it if I’m open.”
Wilder had the key offensive board and assist on Middleton’s big three, but it was work throughout the fourth quarter that had him receiving high praise from Gallivan.
“We don’t win that game without him,” Gallivan said of Wilder.
The junior big-man grabbed four rebounds – three offensive – and went 4-5 from the field just in the fourth quarter.
Middleton didn’t just lead the way offensively, he was an anchor the defense as per usual. Sharon boasted a dangerous guard duo of juniors Jimmy Fritzon and Hockomock-leading scorer Brian Mukasa. Middleton guarded Mukasa for the first half and half of the third quarter, before junior Mike Gallagher took over.
Mukasa netted 11 in the first half, but was limited to just two points in each of the final two quarters.
“I was impressed with what both of them did in the second half,” Gallivan said. “One of our issues at halftime was that Brian Mukasa –- who is obviously a great player – had a third of their points. Marcus kind of renewed his commitment to defense in the third quarter and did a nice job. When he looked like he might need a blow, we switched Michael over and he did a nice job.”
Sharon had a final chance with 4.9 seconds left after two Middleton free throws, but their play never developed and they were unable to get a solid attempt off.
STAR OF THE SHOW
Middleton has been a terrific player for the Black Knights in all four of his years he’s played there. His defense in particular has been stellar, earning the ESPNBoston Defensive Player of the Year last year.
But the spotlight hasn’t always been on Middleton.
Middleton has played with two 1,000 point scorers in Kris Joyce (2011) and Aaron Calixte (transfer) throughout his career as a Black Knight.
But this season, and especially Friday night with senior captain Joe Bunce-Grenon out hurt, this was Middleton’s team.
He proved it on both sides of the ball, and just when it looked like his offense disappeared in the second half, his three from the corner became the difference.
“My confidence level is definitely higher than it has been through the years,” Middleton said. “I had a lot of great players playing with me before. I just think it’s my turn to step up. I have to come out and execute.”