As the weary Vineyard boys basketball team boarded a ferry that had waited half an hour to carry them home on Tuesday night, they looked up to see that the raucous cheering did not end at the doors of the Sandwich gymnasium where they had just suffered an 88-85 point loss to Cardinal Spellman.
“A whole bunch of us went out to the top of the boat,” said Vineyard superfan and grandmother of Vineyard sharpshooter Del Araujo, Sheila Baird. “We all were cheering when they got off the bus and stepped onto the gangplank. Then we came inside and they came upstairs and everyone was clapping. It was pretty emotional. They were emotional.”
It was some small miracle the team had energy left for emotions after a grueling double overtime loss in which a 17-point second half Vineyard comeback wasn’t enough to propel the team to the MIAA south division three state championship game in Boston.
“In two overtimes it just comes down to one bounce here or one shot there or one pass, it can turn on something as simple as that,” coach Mike Joyce said.
On Tuesday, in a scene that was familiar to Vineyard fans, the team found themselves down 11 at the half after a slow start and a last-second three-point heave by Cardinal Spellman’s Kevin Stanton.
The second half began promisingly enough as Peter Keaney and Randall Jette netted two quick layups, but the Cardinal Spellman lead was pushed to 17 midway through the quarter after a three-point play by Kevin Crane, who was fouled on a layup. After coach Mike Joyce called a timeout the Vineyard crowd was curiously silent. Few in the building expected that the game would take another three periods to settle.
The Vineyard found an answer, though, in Peter Keaney, whose patented running floaters in the lane netted him 13 points in the third quarter on his way to a possibly record-breaking 44-point performance.
“I have to double-check with someone, but I think that’s the school record for points in a game,” Mr. Joyce said.
Trouble loomed on the horizon though, as referees called team captain and offensive powerhouse Jette for an offensive foul on a fast break towards the end of the quarter, his fourth of the game.
The Vineyard went into the fourth quarter having shaven only one point off their halftime deficit, still struggling at 56-46. But still they had one burst in them.
Hot-handed Araujo opened the quarter with a three. Jette followed with a bankshot three of his own, but disaster stuck on the next Vineyard possession when Jette was called for his fifth and final foul with just over 5:30 to go. He finished with 13 points on the day. With five minutes left, still down ten at 62-52, the situation looked bleak for the Vineyarders.
“When Randall fouled out some kids really had to step in and hit some big shots, and they did,” said Mr. Joyce on Thursday.
Before the audience could absorb Jette’s exit the Vineyard had mounted their furious comeback. A T.J. VanGerven turnaround brought the Cardinal Spellman lead to eight, a wide open Jack Roberts three-point brought it to five, a steal by Ben Keaney and a three pointer on the other end brought it to two, and a Delmont Araujo steal and tip-in off of a VanGerven miss tied the game and brought the volume in the arena to 11.
When a Del Araujo three gave the Vineyard their first lead of the game in regulation at 65-64, the Vineyard faithful approached delirium.
Keaney and Cardinal Spellman’s Joey Glynn traded buckets to close regulation. After a powerful Glynn low-post move put Cardinal Spellman up 71-69, Keaney nonchalantly dribbled the ball down the court and pulled up from the elbow to tie with 10 seconds in the game.
“Peter Keaney had a monumental effort keeping us together,” said Mr. Joyce. “Start to finish he played with aggression and intensity.”
A Cardinal Spellman miss at the buzzer brought the game to an unlikely overtime finish.
Kevin Crane and Del Araujo traded three pointers to start the period while Keaney continued to hit runners in the lane and ice free throws. In the first overtime, when exhaustion is usually the biggest opponent for either team, both the Vineyard and Cardinal Spellman continued to play at an extremely high level.
“A lot of times in these games you spend the whole overtime and no one scores but it was just back and forth, one big shot after another from both teams,,” said Mr. Joyce. “It was just amazing.”
A Glynn lay-in followed by two Keaney free throws, followed by a Keaney baseline drive and then a Glynn slam dunk locked the teams up at 82 with 25 seconds left. The score would stay there after a Cardinal Spellman three missed its mark as time expired.
In the second overtime, though, the exhaustion became evident on both sides, and the Vineyard missed its first four shots. When Cardinal Spellman’s Paul Preziosi hit three free throws with under a minute left the Vineyard had no answer. When Keaney backrimmed a halfcourt prayer to end the game the score stood at 88-85 and the Vineyard’s tournament run was over.
“After the game I said you guys should be very proud of everything you’ve done,” said Mr. Joyce. “I know right now it feels like someone punched you in the stomach, but you accomplished a lot this year — it’s probably the furthest the Vineyard’s gone in the tournament in 20 years — and in a couple days you’ll be able to think about that, but I want you to know that I’m very proud of what you guys have done.”
Mr. Joyce said the team’s accomplishments extended off the court.
“Not only was it a great season in terms of wins and losses but it was just an incredibly fun group of kids to see come together,” he said.
For Ms. Baird, who had hosted pasta dinners for the team before each of its tournament games, the season’s end was particularly affecting.
“Nobody in the crowd had seen such a good game,” she said. “The kids have become like a family for me, so it was very emotional for all of us.”