Fourth quarter dunks send Old Rochester to Elite Eight

Mar 6, 2024

MATTAPOISETT — In the final minute of the Old Rochester Regional High School boys basketball team’s matchup with Salem High School on Wednesday, March 6, senior John Butler turned the game into a personal dunk contest.

With just over 60 seconds to play in the fourth quarter of the MIAA Div. 3 tournament round of 16 game, junior Zack Mourao drilled a crucial 3-pointer to give the Bulldogs a 59-51 lead.

On the following Salem possession, Butler stole the ball, traveled the length of the court and threw down a thunderous slam dunk to send the home crowd into a frenzy.

And then he did it again.

After a technical foul against Old Rochester gave Salem two free throws and the ball, Butler took it right back and dunked again, effectively putting the game out of reach and sending Old Rochester to the Elite Eight with a 66-58 victory.

When the final buzzer sounded, the Old Rochester student section spilled out onto the court in celebration.

The win marks Old Rochester’s third consecutive trip to the quarterfinals.

Senior Chase Besancon and Mourao led the Bulldogs with 18 points each.

“Chase is one of the hardest working kids I’ve ever had,” said Old Rochester head coach Steve Carvalho. “He stayed with it and made a couple big buckets tonight.”

“I think stretching before the game and locking in against a good team was really important tonight,” said Besancon. “I’m excited — We’ve made it [to the Elite 8] the last three years, it should be fun.”

Besancon said that playing good defense was the key to victory for the Bulldogs.

Old Rochester allowed just 21 points in the first half, taking a 27-21 lead into the locker room at halftime.

When Salem freshman Jordan Maxson got into a scoring groove in the third quarter to give the Witches the lead, Carvalho quickly switched from a man-to-man defense to a zone defense, which forced the ball out of Maxson’s hands.

“They started getting by us a little too much,” said Carvalho. “I wanted to give them a different look and use our length to help us out.”

Butler scored 13 of his 15 points in the second half to help the Bulldogs reclaim the lead for good.

“John is a marked man, Carvalho said. “I told him to stay with it, to play through it and let the game come to him. He’s a very formidable basketball player out there. He’s been a money kid in the second half all year.”

By the time the game started, there was not an empty seat in the Old Rochester Regional High School gymnasium.

On Friday, March 8, Old Rochester will play host to Dover-Sherborn High School in the Elite Eight with a trip to the Final Four on the line.

“This team has built a lot of confidence and mental toughness over the last month,” Carvalho said. “Winning is hard, and it only gets harder now. I felt we had a shot this year to make some sort of run — It feels really good.”