The Duxbury boys’ basketball team turned in one of its best efforts of the year for 28 minutes last night in Stoughton. But it was the last four minutes that proved disastrous, as the Dragons watched the Black Knights come from behind and erase an eight-point deficit behind the shooting of junior Aaron Calixte to give the hosts a 69-63.
Riding a four-game winning streak as they entered the tournament, the Dragons appeared to have found their scoring touch at the right time, as a game with #4 seeded Stoughton (16-4) was expected to be a run-and-gun affair.
It was a track meet in the first quarter, as both teams sprinted up and down the court with Duxbury grabbing a 9-4 lead in the first three minutes on the first of several bombs by senior Curtis Owen (22 pts.).
The speed and jumping ability of the Black Knights looked like it would be difficult for Duxbury to handle. But Owen kept his team in the game with some unconscious shooting as the teams frantic pace gave the crowd twisted necks.
When the first quarter ended, Stoughton found themselves in the lead at 22-21 after sophomore Jake Foote had buried a three-pointer for a 19-18 lead.
It was debatable how long the Dragons could keep up the pace. But the Marino twins (Justin and Jason-11 pts.) stepped up their games in the second quarter, and along with the insertion of Gordon Acha, who threw his weight around inside, Duxbury regained the lead and grew it to a surprising 38-29 with 1:23 left in the half.
A shocked Stoughton team suddenly woke up and went on a 7-1 run to end the second quarter, down by only three points at 39-36 as the horn sounded.
Stoughton’s Antonio Ferreira closed the gap to 39-38 in the first minute of the third quarter, only to have Duxbury’s John Geary (12 pts.) respond with a bucket. The Marinos, Geary, and Khai Perry would keep Duxbury offense in synch and grabbed a 49-45 lead forcing Coach John Gallivan to call a timeout with 3:48 on the clock.
The timeout did little to stifle the Dragons offense, as Duxbury came out of the timeout with six points by Owen and a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Geary for a 58-50 lead entering the fourth quarter.
Geary and Perry continued to score as the final eight minutes ticked off the clock. With 5:53 to go Duxbury maintained its eight-point lead at 62-54 and things were looking good as the clock wound down under five minutes.
The electrifying Calixte then took over, burying a three-pointer to cut the deficit to five and allowing Gallivan to call a timeout to set up his defense.
His strategy worked, as the Dragons were stripped of the ball and Calixte and Mauro Oliveira scored consecutive hoops to tie the game at 62-62.
The smothering Black Knight defense made advancing the ball and getting into their offense a struggle for the Dragons. After failing to break the tie, Calixte led his team down the floor and buried his shot for a 64-62 lead with three minutes to go.
Owen and Calixte would match free throws in the final two minutes to make it 65-63, but another Duxbury turnover with 1:40 to go gave the ball back to Stoughton.
The Dragons got a break when they were fouled under the Stoughton basket, but they failed to capitalize on the one-and-one. The Black Knights got the rebound and went back down the floor where Calixte was fouled in a one-on-one as well. The captain failed to hit his shot, but his teammates grabbed the rebound and fed him underneath where he was fouled and buried booth freebies this time with 25 seconds to go and a 67-63 lead.
Duxbury continued to be harassed on offense, unable to get off a decent shot in the closing seconds and allowing Stoughton to end the evening on an Oliveira basket.
“I thought for 3 ½ quarters we played really well,” said a dejected Coach Gordon Cushing. “So the result of that is very disappointing. Tonight they were better than us down the end. We did a couple of things at the end that hurt us like the five-second violations, and then they hit a couple of threes which they hadn’t down in the first half. We were probably getting a little tired at the end, but we battled and played hard and just came up short.”
The loss eliminates the Dragons (#13 seed) from the Division II South Sectionals and ends their season at 11-10. It also marks the end of the high school basketball careers for seniors Jason and Justin Marino, Curtis Owen, Andrew Scott, Jack Guilfoile and Gordon Acha.