It was a jam-packed day of sports last Saturday on the Vineyard, as both the boys’ basketball and boys’ hockey teams posted big wins over conference rival Bishop Feehan, while the steadily-improving girls’ hockey team skated to a 2-2 tie against Marshfield.
Approximately 400 people jammed the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School gymnasium on a bitterly cold afternoon to watch the boys’ take on Bishop Feehan. And they certainly got their money’s worth.
Both teams rallied to overcome late deficits and had a shot to win the game in the final seconds. In the end the game was decided by a thrilling three-point shot by Ben Ciciora from the right corner with time running out, to give his team a 71-70 win.
This was the Vineyard boys’ first win this season against an Eastern Athletic Conference opponent, and an impressive one at that. The Shamrocks came in sporting a 7-2 record and went 18-2 last year and won their league.
The game was not nearly as close early, as the Vineyard jumped to a 21-13 lead in the first quarter and a 37-27 lead at the half. Just about everyone contributed for the Vineyard in the first half, with 10 different players scoring.
The Vineyard built the lead to 43-30 in the second half, but then went cold as Bishop Feehan reeled off 15 unanswered points to take a 45-43 lead. But then the Vineyard went on a 9-2 run to take the lead back at 52-45 later in the third quarter.
Things went back and forth in the final quarter; the Shamrocks nailed a three-pointer and the Vineyarders’ Randall Jette responded by gliding down the court and dumping a no-look pass to Steve Handy to make it 65-54. But Bishop Feehan’s leading scorer Ryan Sheehan came right back with three consecutive baskets to make it 65-60.
The Vineyard was called for a technical foul after Jette was caught hanging on the rim, giving the Shamrocks two shots from the line and possession, allowing them to creep to 65-64. On the sidelines head coach Michael Joyce was starting to get nervous.
“They just kept hanging around. I don’t think we lost our intensity or anything, they just kept fighting and fighting,” he said.
The Shamrocks took a 66-65 lead on a Sheehan jumper, and stuck a dagger in the Vineyard’s heart when guard Giorgio Marchione — who had only four points all game — drained a three pointer from the corner to give his team a 69-66 lead with less than a minute left to play.
The Vineyarders were undeterred; Jette quickly drove the lane and scored to make it 69-68, and then brought the ball back on a turnover with 30 seconds left on the clock. But Jette was then called for a questionable offensive charge, putting Bishop Feehan back on the line to shoot two; they converted one of the free throws to take a 70-68 advantage with 14 seconds to go.
Coach Joyce told his players not to panic on the final play, to make good passes and find the open man for either a two-point or three-point shot. “I told them not to force it . . . just find the open man,” he said.
The Vineyard boys calmly brought the ball down court and passed it around the perimeter looking for an open man.
Twice the ball went through the hands of the team’s top two scorers, Handy and Lamar Moreis, until it got into the hands of Ciciora on the far right perimeter near the Vineyard bench. Like a stone-cold killer Ciciora drained the three, sending the home crowd into a frenzy.
“That was senior leadership right there,” the coach said. “We took the time to find the best shot available to us.”
The Shamrocks had another chance to win the game with five seconds left, but the desperation throw from half court went wide.
Coach Joyce said it was one of the more exciting games he ever coached, even more sweet since his team won.
“It’s nice to be on the winning side of one of these epics for a change. We had the triple overtime loss against Wayland here two years ago, and the buzzer-beater [loss] to Seekonk last year. I think this win makes a statement both for our players and the rest of the league . . . we can play with anyone,” he said.
Jette led the Vineyarders with 19 points; Justin Mercier and Moreis each had 11. Leading scorer Handy did not have his best offensive game, but did have perhaps his best overall game, with nine points and 15 rebounds while doing a good job of slowing down Sheehan by taking four offensive fouls and making several key steals.
The Vineyard beat Somerset, another key league opponent, on Tuesday 72-68.
The boys play Minuteman Tech at home tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. and are back at home to play against Coyle-Cassidy on Tuesday at 4:15 p.m.
In a game as one-sided as the boys’ basketball game earlier in the day was dramatic, the hockey team trounced Bishop Feehan on Saturday 6-2 in their first EAC game of the season. The Vineyarders got on the scoreboard early and often, after Darren Gazaille found the back of the net only one minute in to give the home team an early lead.
Minutes later Jock Cooperrider scored on assist from Gazaille and Henry Smith to make it 2-0, and the Vineyarders never looked back. Smith finished with two goals and two assists to lead the team.
Bishop Feehan’s Matt Blackman made things interesting in the first period when he scored to cut the Vineyarders lead to 2-1, but Tyler Araujo answered early in the second to make it 3-1. Feehan then scored on a power play goal by Sean Daly later in the period to make it 3-2, but goals by Smith and Colby Gouldrup in the third period sealed the win.
Goaltender Louis Jacobs-Walsh had 24 saves.
The Vineyarders faced a tougher opponent on Wednesday in Somerset, who came into the contest sporting a 9-1 record, but the Island team still managed to build a big lead before losing a heartbreaker 6-5.
The Vineyarders took a 2-1 lead after the first period on goals by Gazaille and Chris Davies, and pushed the lead to 4-1 early in the third period on a pair of goals by Araujo. It appeared as if the Vineyarders were cruising to an easy win when the tide suddenly turned.
To the dismay of head coach Matt Mincone, the Shamrocks scored four consecutive goals in just over three minutes to take a 5-4 lead.
“I sort of saw it coming, but there was little I could do to stop the bleeding . . . it happened so fast,” Coach Mincone said. “I called time out, I made changes to the lines, but there was nothing we could do. Our team sort of fell asleep, and when they woke up, they had all the momentum and we were playing catch-up.”
The Vineyarders showed some spark by tying the game at 5-5, but the Shamrocks added another goal in the final minutes to seal the win.
With the loss the Vineyard’s record fell to 4-5-1, as the team heads into a busy stretch against four tough opponents in eight days; they play at Mansfield today on the road, at Dennis-Yarmouth on Monday, at home against Coyle-Cassidy on Wednesday at 4 p.m., and at Bishop Stang next Saturday.
Coach Mincone said this will make or break the season.
“I don’t know what to expect from this team right now. We started the season battling for every buck, attacking every play, but now I am seeing less of that. I hope this recent loss [against Somerset] was a wake-up, because we’re going to need to play better over this stretch . . . we’ll know what kind of team this is after these four games,” he said.
The girls’ basketball team continued to play well this week, beating conference opponent Somerset at home Tuesday 54-49, but also losing to Bishop Feehan on the road on Saturday 34-61. The Vineyard girls’ record now stands at 6-3; they play at home today against Wareham at 5:15 p.m.