It was a nail biter that ended in heartbreak. They were up by two points with under three minutes left in the game, then down by one point with five seconds remaining, but in the end the Vineyarders could not overcome defending champions Danvers on Tuesday in the MIAA Division 3 state semifinal.
The high-stakes match was played under the bright lights of the TD Garden in Boston. More than 400 Island fans crowded chartered buses, eager to cheer on both this particular winning Vineyard squad and the Island basketball program, which had not taken to the court at the Garden in a state championship game since 1973.
The Vineyard started out strong, getting the first points on the board from Navardo Anderson, who picked up where he left off in Saturday's sectional final. But Danvers rallied back, ending the first quarter up 17-10. Those first few moments would set the tone for the tense, back-and-forth game that only became more tense as the clock ticked down and both teams traded leads and points.
Izak Browne led the Vineyard effort in the second quarter, sinking two three-pointers and paving the way for a tied finish, 24-24, at the half. The third quarter would see more lead tradoffs, with both teams struggling to outpace the other.
Just six minutes left in the game, the Vineyard seemed to be capitalizing on momentum. Brandon Watkins scored a three-pointer, putting the boys on top 40-38. And with 2:28 left, Jack Roberts hit a three, then scored again on a steal to give the Vineyarders a 43-41 advantage and send the crowd into overdrive.
Danvers tied it up at the two-minute mark and notched two free throws to edge out the Vineyard 45-43. Down by five with 16 seconds left, play moved to the free throw lines. Browne handed off the ball to Watkins, who scored a layup, closing the gap to one point, 48-47, with 5.6 second remaining.
The game ended back at the foul line, with Danvers netting two points for a final score of 50-47.
Browne led the Vineyard scoring effort with a total of 17 points; Roberts had 12 and Watkins had 8.
With their win, Danvers earns a repeat spot in the state final, to be played at the DCU Center in Worcester on Saturday.
See more photos from the action on the TD Garden court in our photo gallery, Fight to the Finish in State Tournament Semifinal.