BOSTON — This one meant a little bit more to Aaron Calixte.
It wasn’t in what he said in the postgame or the many hugs he received from friends, family and even complete strangers parading around center court once all the games completed for the day.
It was in the way that Calixte went darting for the last rebound to cinch a 59-53 victory for No. 4 seed Stoughton over No. 6 seed Hopkinton (17-7) to complete the Black Knights journey to the TD Garden.
The junior guard flew through the air to make sure the ball was in his hands at the end of the game and once the buzzer sounded he pounded the ball into the ground with two hands and immediately ran to his teammates for a few congraluatory chest bumps.
“It means a lot,” said Calixte. “There’s a first time for everything. It’s my first time going to the Garden and it’s my junior year. I can’t even explain how good it feels.
“We wanted revenge and that’s what we got tonight.”
Calixte has turned himself into one of the most polished guards in all of Eastern Mass. this season, and has turned himself into a household name with the most recent run to a Div. 2 South championship. The junior guard finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds, and most importantly hit a big bucket to turn the tide back into the favor of the Black Knights when it looked like the Hillers would get the better of Stoughton two years in a row.
The Hillers took a 43-42 lead early in the fourth quarter, their first of the second half, and Calixte moved smoothly, and quickly, up the court to nail a jumper to steal the lead back just seconds after giving it up.
“We have been in this situation many times,” he said. “We have been in close games all season, and we just know how to close out games and get wins. We know how to come back from a run and it never brings us down.
“He was very emotional in the huddle,” said Stoughton head coach John Gallivan, whose team hasn’t appeared in the Div. 2 South finals in eight years. “He was very emotional at halftime. He wanted this really bad -- not that the others didn’t, but he wanted it really badly. He went out and got it.”
The Animal: Much has been made about Marcus Middleton’s defense this season.
But hearing is one thing, seeing how hard the young man works at his craft is another.
Middleton took on Barrett Hanlon from the second the ball was tipped, and although there were some moments for Hanlon where he clearly gained an advantage in the battle, the overall war probably went the Black Knights’ defender’s way.
Hanlon scored 13 points and Middleton’s head coach had nothing but praise for his junior stopper.
“Marcus is a defensive animal,” said Gallivan. “He has been that guy every night this year. Whoever the best guy is, he’s going to play them and give us everything he’s got and I thought he was awesome tonight.”
Middleton has gone up against the very best in the Hockomock on a nightly basis and he knew he had a big-time matchup going into this one.
“I remember him from last time,” said Middleton. “During the man they have a pick-and-roll where he can go either way. He gets into the lane and he can shoot. I had to have a perfect game on him in order for us to win.”
Several times Middleton played a physical style of basketball on Hanlon, but not wonce did he reach and try and cheat to strip the ball. With all the contact he can create at times, which in a physical sport is presumably going to happen, Middleton explained that he doesn’t play defense with his hands or put himself into bad positions.
“I like to play more with my chest than with my hands,” said Middleton. “I find that if I play with my hands then I get hand checks on me. If I play more with my chest and my body then the refs can’t call it as much because I’m not reaching in.”
Late Call: The game was close and then an interesting call came with a little over a minute left to go in the game. As Calixte and Jason Dlugolecki were running up the court after a made basket, Calixte went to the ground and Dlugolecki was called for an intentional foul.
The Black Knights were awarded two free throws and Antonio Ferreira (16 points, 15 rebounds) made 1-of-2 to take a commanding six point lead.
“They didn’t really explain it,” said Tom Keane. “They said my player kicked their player. It’s a call they have to make I guess. It’s an interesting call with one minute left in a championship game. We have the ball down five. Two kids were going back-and-forth for a quarter and a half. It’s an interesting time to call it.”