The boys’ basketball team continued to roll this week, improving its record to 10-1 — the team’s best start ever under head coach Mike Joyce.
The team now stands atop the Eastern Athletic Conference with a record of 3-0, and already has clinched a berth in the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament, with roughly half a season yet to play.
The girls’ hockey team continues to improve and the boys’ hockey team staged a turnaround to the delight of team coach Matt Mincone.
Just eight days ago, the boys’ basketball team had to stage a late rally and hit a three-point shot to win a thriller against conference powerhouse Bishop Feehan. The Vineyard boys have been on a roll ever since, winning three games by an average of almost 30 points.
On Saturday they pummeled Minutemen Tech at home 79-39 in a game that saw every player on the 11-man roster score at least three points, and five different players score at least eight. Del Araujo led the way with 17 and Steve Handy had 15, including a slam dunk in the third quarter that brought the home crowd to its feet.
Randall Jette had 11 points, Justin Mercier scored 10, and T.J. VanGerven pitched in with eight points. Even reserve Chris Costello got into the act by scoring his first basket of the season, a smooth-as-silk three-pointer from the right wing that also gave the home fans a charge.
The Vineyarders faced a bigger challenge at Pembroke on Monday, but were still equal to the task, winning 68-56. Jette led the way with 14 points; Lamar Moreis and Ben Ciciora each had 12 points and Justin Mercier had 10 points.
Back at home on Tuesday, they reeled off another lopsided win, shaking off a sluggish first quarter to defeat conference rival Coyle-Cassidy 83-56. Moreis had 15 points in the win; Mercier had 13 and Handy scored 10.
Coach Joyce said his team continues to improve with each game.
“This is one of the most unselfish teams I have coached. They are always looking to find the open man, which makes them difficult to defend because every player on this team can score. You can see this group enjoys playing the game, and they enjoy playing as a team,” he said, adding:
“In previous years our teams, for whatever reason, seemed to experience a little lull late in games. But if anything this team comes out of halftime with more energy — whether it’s a close game or they are winning by 20 points. They have great focus and intensity.”
Coach Joyce’s team now enters a tough stretch of road games, playing conference foes Bishop Stang today and Bishop Feehan on Tuesday. They next play at home on Saturday, Jan. 30 at 4:30 p.m. against Somerset, another league opponent.
During a phone conversation early Wednesday morning, fresh on the heels of a punishing 6-2 loss against Dennis-Yarmouth two nights before, coach Matt Mincone was understandably downcast. His team had just lost a third game in a row and fallen to 4-7 on the season. It looked like a long-shot to qualify for postseason play.
“We started the season as a team of scrappy players, filled with fire and dedication,” the coach said, harkening back to better days when his team’s record stood at 3-1. “But whatever magic we had is gone now . . . and I don’t know how to get it back. We are looking for team chemistry, we are looking for a spark, we are looking for anything right now.”
What a difference a few hours makes. That afternoon the team notched an exciting, improbable and hopefully season-changing win against familiar rival Coyle-Cassidy, the same team that knocked the Island team out of the playoffs three out of the last four seasons.
Coyle-Cassidy is a perennial powerhouse in Massachusetts hockey. Going into the game, the coach knew this might be a last stand for his team.
After Monday’s loss to Dennis-Yarmouth, he tried just about everything to shake his team up. He gave speeches, he showed an inspirational video, he talked to his senior players. “What’s frustrating is this is a talented team; we are good enough to win these games [we are losing] — we are good enough to go deep into the playoffs, we’re just missing something,” he said.
On Wednesday, he noticed something was different.
“I could just tell looking at the players they were focused. They had a different kind of energy before the game,” he said.
Despite that, the boys found themselves in an early hole as Coyle-Cassidy scored in the first period to take a 1-0 advantage. Nevertheless, the team was playing well. “We were in the zone. In other games this season we have sort of gone flat after falling behind, but instead that goal just fired us up,” Coach Mincone said.
Brooks Billingham got the equalizer for the Vineyarders in the second period on an unassisted goal, and the home team took its first lead in the third period on a goal from Darren Gazaille with an assist from Henry Smith. The Vineyard increased the lead to 3-1 minutes later on another goal from Gazaille, this time with assists from Smith and Chris Davies.
Coyle-Cassidy pulled their goalie in the final minutes and scored, but the Vineyard held on for the 3-2 win, perhaps saving their season in the process.
“It was a great game to be a part of. The kids understood what was at stake, and they came up big. I am proud of them,” the coach said.
The team faces two conference rivals on the road next: Bishop Stang on Saturday and Bishop Feehan on Wednesday, before returning home to play Somerset on Saturday, Jan. 30. Game time is 5 p.m.
The team lost a pair of games this week, dropping to 6-4 on the season.
After jumping out to an early 7-0 lead against Wareham last Friday, the girls fell behind 27-20 at halftime. Although they would rally in the second half to take at a 31-30 at the end of the third quarter, Wareham came out strong in the final quarter to capture a 50-42 win.
Kate Hines scored nine points in the loss; Jillian Sedlier had eight.
Things didn’t improve in a conference match-up against Coyle-Cassidy at Taunton, with the Vineyarders losing 55-37.
After a rocky start which included five straight losses and the sudden resignation of longtime head coach Sam Sherman, the team is showing strong signs of improvement. The girls won the opening game of the Nan Rheault tournament held here last weekend against Scituate 4-2, and put up a valiant effort against Cambridge Rindge and Latin in the championship game before losing 3-0.
The Vineyarders fell behind 1-0 early, but didn’t allow another goal until the final minutes when the Falcons scored on freak short-handed goal that floated under goalie Jamie Forend’s stick after one of her teammates tried to clear the puck. The Falcons added another goal in the final seconds to make it 3-0, not an accurate reflection of how close the game really was.
The girls next play on the road tomorrow against Sandwich, and are at home against Falmouth on Jan. 30. Game time is 1 p.m.