Basketball Team Wins

By KATHERINE WILEY

Tuesday afternoon, the Martha's Vineyard boys' varsity basketball team showed what a burst of energy, a dose of teamwork and a foundation of hard work can do. It can get you a win in the preliminary round of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) Division 3 basketball tournament.

The Vineyarders kept the fans on the edge of their seats, overcoming a large deficit and beating 19t-seeded Old Rochester 55-51 in a hard-fought game at the Vineyard's regional high school.

Their win allowed the team to advance in the tournament; they took on third-ranked Rockland last night.

The Vineyarders, who were seeded number 14, came out strong with senior Jeremy Scheffer nailing a three-pointer to put the team on the board three minutes into the game.

For the bulk of the first half, the score remained close, tallying in at 11-11 with just under six minutes to play.

But then a three-point shot by Old Rochester gave them the advantage. Aided by sloppy defense and passing on the part of the Vineyarders, the Bulldogs surged ahead, going into the locker room with a 31-16 lead.

"Basically, we just lacked the energy or willingness. It's a tournament game - you have to give just a little more," said Vineyard coach Chris Joyce in a Thursday morning conversation with the Gazette.

The Vineyarders began the second half looking like they hadn't picked up any steam in the locker room. Although they managed to sink some baskets, they seemed unable to close the gap; with seven minutes to go they were still behind, 44-28.

But then the Vineyarders began racking up baskets, starting with two foul shots from junior Ian Minor. These were quickly followed by another three-pointer from Mr. Scheffer that bumped the score up to 33-46.

"They started hustling and playing aggressive defense, and everything changed. Old Rochester really started to break down," Mr. Joyce said.

The Vineyarders continued to capitalize on turnovers and sink free throws, bringing the fans to their feet. With under two minutes to go, they pulled ahead of the Bulldogs for the first time, 48-47, thanks to anther two points from Mr. Minor.

But Old Rochester wasn't ready to give up the game and the lead shifted back and forth three more times before junior Will Burney sank a lay-up to make it 52-51.

The Vineyard hung onto that lead for the last 30 seconds, aided by three missed free throws by Old Rochester and a steal on an inbounds pass. And just to show they were really serious, they added three points in the last 12 seconds to put the final score at 55-51.

Mr. Joyce emphasized that the comeback can be attributed not to one star player, but to a lot of teamwork.

Some players did stand out, though, including senior Jeremy Scheffer. "He was a huge part of it," Mr. Joyce said. "He just worked so hard through the whole game. He made a lot of things happen just by hustling from one end of the court to the other." Mr. Scheffer had 11 points, nine rebounds and five steals.

Mr. Joyce also pointed to three juniors: Mr. Minor, Jose Rodriquez and Will Burney. "Those three guys together, they all play the same kind of fast, up-paced basketball. They've won a lot of games for us this season," he said.

And although he's young, sophomore Brian Alexander also did his share. "He's done a lot of things to help us when we needed ball control and good passing. For a young kid, he definitely can have some poise on the court," Mr. Joyce said.

But late in the week, the team was focusing on last night's game.

"I don't know what's going to happen today. I think we can shock some people if we play those last nine minutes for the entire game," Mr. Joyce said.

The teams met during the Vineyard's Christmas tournament, where Rockland beat Martha's Vineyard by 19 points. "We were just outmatched completely, but I don't think we're outmatched now," Mr. Joyce said.

"The biggest concept is making them believe in team and what we can do with that. And you hope that can show on the court," he said. "It's not one person. That's not going to do it, not in basketball."