When the horn sounded at the end of regulation and Stoughton only had 43 points, Oliver Ames had done a superb job of limiting the Black Knights’ chances. Unfortunately, the Tigers were only able to put up 43 of their own. An overtime period followed, then double overtime, then triple overtime, and then, yes, a quadruple overtime. In the end, the Tigers (9-6) ran out of time, falling to their Davenport Division rival Stoughton, 79-76.
“For the most part, the defensive job that we did was where we wanted it to be,” Oliver Ames head coach Don Byron said. “Keeping them to 43 in regulation is a real accomplishment for our kids.”
The game was easily one of the most anticipated of the year, especially with Stoughton undefeated in the division and OA only a game behind. With the stands packed, both schools were well represented.
“What we tried to emphasize with the kids [was that] they were under tournament level pressure, in a hostile environment for two straight hours,” Byron said. “The valuable part of this game was that we reacted real well to that. Every time there was some adversity, we stepped up and found another person to make a big play. I really don’t feel badly in that regard. This was a game that you don’t see. I told the kids I don’t think I’ve ever been apart of a four overtime game.”
With neither team able to pull away and over a dozen lead changes, the Tigers continually applied pressure to the host Black Knights.
“You know, you keep on trying to pull it out of the kids,” Byron said. “To our credit, I don’t think we blinked. I think we just kept coming at people. I never felt that we had [taken] a defensive possession off. Fortunately for us, we didn’t because these guys are so explosive they can take over a game. It was one of those games that I don’t think we ever separated, either team, over five points. The couple times we did, we got timely shots.”
Junior Nick Burha led the way for the Tigers with 21 points. Bruha continually hit big shots, including a big three at the start of the second overtime.
“[He had a] couple of big three point plays on his end as well,” Byron said. “He’s that kind of kid. When the lights are the brightest is when you’re going to see the best of Nick Bruha, and he did it again tonight.”
Stoughton head coach John Gallivan knew that his squad would have their hands full with a player like Bruha.
“We knew that by playing zone that we were opening ourselves up to him hurting us and he did,” Gallivan said. “He hit some huge shots. Anytime we made a mistake, he made a big play and he made us pay for it. Down the stretch we were able to close out better on him and switch up the defenses a bit. He had a solid game. He’s a tough kid. He’s one of the guys you have to focus on.”
Oliver Ames had a significant height advantage over Stoughton and did their best to expose that. Seniors Mason Pires (16 points) and Jimmy Fitzgerald (12 points) combined for over a third of the teams scoring, using their height to grab offensive boards and getting quality second chance opportunities.
“It’s something we wanted to extenuate here,” Byron said of his team’s height advantage. “Stoughton, athletically, is terrific but they are perimeter orientated. We’ve got a couple kids that are real comfortable down on the block, and that’s an advantage I thought we have over them.”
Both schools were well represented inside Stoughton High’s gym, giving the game an extra special feeling.
“Its tournament atmosphere is what it is,” Byron said. “With what was on the line here tonight for both teams, both teams understand the importance of it and all that goes with it. It’s just a great atmosphere and the kids reacted in a great way. They kept coming back, coming back, and coming back.”
Byron dubbed it as “an unbelievable night of basketball.”
Also scoring for the Tigers were Eric MacKinnon (15 points), Duane Johnson (8 points), Cody Chase (3 points) and St. Clair Ryan (1 point).
The Tigers will be back in action on Friday when they host Davenport Division rival Canton.
“Everything is important at this point,” Byron said. “There’s a lot on the line right now. We want to get that tenth game for automatic qualification.”