They came ready for a rematch, and that's what they got. On Saturday afternoon the boys' basketball team topped defending title-holders Wareham to claim the title of Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletics Association Division 3 South Section champions. They now advance to the statewide Division 3 tournament semifinals on Tuesday at the TD Garden.
The Vineyarders defeated number-one-seed Wareham 77-71 in front of a boisterous crowd of Island fans at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, handing the Vikings only their second loss of the season. The Vineyard was seeded number seven, and entered the final match with a 17-5 record.
Though the odds may have appeared stacked against them, the Vineyard got off to a strong start, gaining a tight lead by the end of the first quarter and holding on to it. They ended the half 43-36. But after a furious back and forth in the third quarter, the Vineyard entered the final leg of play up just two points, 60-58.
Both teams traded points, evening the score 67-67 with just under four minutes left in the game. With 55 seconds left, Navardo Anderson put away a dunk, upping the score to 73-69 as the crowd went wild. Anderson then sunk two free throws with 16 seconds left in the game to wrap up the Vineyard win.
The team leapt around the court, fitting in as much celebration as they could before the court had to be cleared for the Division 2 match-ups.
“It’s pretty amazing,” head coach Mike Joyce told the Gazette. “We were oddly calm . . . pretty confident in what our kids were capable of.”
“They went in knowing they could play,” he said.
“Last year it was just flat, you know? We didn't’t play; we didn't’t have enough energy,” senior co-captain Izak Browne said after the victory. “Today we just came out with energy and wanted to win the game from the start.”
“They cut it kind of close, but we came back,” he said.
Coach Joyce said he was especially pleased by the team’s growth and cohesion over the season. “The team concept has gotten better and better.”
That team effort was on display throughout the section finals. It wasn't’t just that four players scored in the double digits, or that that four had five or more rebounds. Every player seemed to have a key moment, whether Deshawn James giving the Vineyard the lead on back-to-back baskets in the first, Kane Araujo’s perfectly timed game-tying three pointer in the fourth, Anderson’s two dunks, or Liam Weston’s clutch performance at the free throw line.
“In the second quarter [coach Joyce] had three bench guys start,” volunteer coach Sam Berlow said. “Jahmari Thomas, Deshawn James [and] Kane Araujo . . . they just went in and picked up right where the others had left off.”
“It’s like we have a starting eight,” coach Joyce said.
The Vineyard defense worked tirelessly to contain Wareham’s leading scorer, Darien Fernandez, who nevertheless notched 29 points (5 threes), and their eagle-eyed three-point shooter Sam Brogioli, who hit six three-pointers in the course of the game.
Browne and James led the Vineyard scoring with 15 points each, and senior co-captain Jack Roberts scored 13 points. Anderson scored 11 points, while senior Brandon Watkins had 8 and Thomas had 6. Araujo and Weston scored 5 and 4, respectively,
The team will play Danvers, the winners of the North section tournament, on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at TD Garden.
For more photos of the game, see our photo gallery: Vineyarders Win Tournament Championship.