The Braintree High girls' basketball team is now just one win away from getting to defend its Sectional Championship from a year ago.
Stoughton (14-8), the 10th seed in the tournament was trying to knock off #2 Braintree, the highest remaining seed left in the tournament, but instead the Wamps (22-2) will advance to play #11 Wellesley in the Sectional semifinals.
Braintree beat #18 Quincy 69-24 in the first round on Wednesday, and while the win over Stoughton was by 24 points, the Black Knights were no easy out.
Stoughton kept the game close throughout the first half, and even when the Black Knights fell behind by double digits in the second half, they fought back.
After trailing by as much as 17 with 3:16 left in the third quarter, Stoughton went on a 12-4 run to end the third and start the fourth. Two free throws from Nicole Daniels brought Stoughton within nine points, 43-34, with 7:56 to play.
When Braintree increased the lead to 13, Mackenzie McGrath hit a three-pointer to close the gap to 47-37 with 6:38 left.
But that was as close as Stoughton would get as Braintree responded with a 9-0 run over the next two minutes en route to the big win.
"I give so much credit to Stoughton. They came ready to play. I thought our team did a good job gutting it out, especially in the second half," Braintree coach Kristen McDonnell said.
"For us it's extremely important to play a game like this and get through it," McDonnell added. "We're very lucky to come out with a win. I think we battled. I'm proud of the kids for that."
Stoughton trailed by just four points, 19-15, following a McGrath three-pointer with 2:39 to go in the first half. After Braintree went on a mini-run, Emma Zuk hit a three-pointer with about 5 seconds left in the second, to make the deficit a manageable 26-19 at the half.
The difference in the game was the third quarter.
After a two-pointer from McGrath made it a 26-21 game 34 seconds into the third, Braintree went on a 13-1 run fueled by Molly Reagan and Bridget Herlihy, to put some distance between the two teams.
"The difference in the third quarter was the boards," Stoughton coach Janet Sullivan said. "They started to dominate the boards. We knew when the game started if they dominated the boards they would be able to break on us. We had held them in check in the first half, but in the third quarter they controlled the boards, started fast breaking, built a bit of a lead."
McGrath led Stoughton with 26 points, including six three-pointers.
Meanwhile, Braintree was led by Herlihy, who had 28 points.
"If a guard is covering her, we can put her down low and if a forward is covering her we can bring her up top. She brings a lot to the table, she's very versatile," McDonnell said of Herlihy, a six-foot sophomore.
Reagan had 14 points and Ashley Russell added 13.
Braintree's semifinal game against Wellesley will be played at Massasoit Community College (date and time TBA). Wellesley upset #3 North Attleboro 63-57 in its quarterfinal round game.