The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys’ basketball team defeated a determined team from Rockland at home last night by a final score of 70-62 in the first round of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association tournament.
The game was played before a standing-room-only crowd in the high school gymnasium — it may be school vacation week on the Vineyard but plenty of people are still at home.
Although the Vineyarders led by 16 points in the third quarter and as many as 12 in the fourth, the Rockland Bulldogs battled to the bitter end, shaving the lead to four points in the final minutes before the hometown team pulled away.
Coach Mike Joyce said after the game that things got a little too close for comfort in the final quarter, but he said overall he was happy with how his team did.
“We played with great intensity; we battled for every loose ball and shut them down on defense. I can’t ask for more than that,” the coach said.
With the win, the Vineyard boys’ team will advance to the second round of the state tournament; they will play the winner of last night’s match-up between Wareham and Apponequet Regional High School.
Wareham, with a record of 19-1, is a number four seed and was considered a favorite in last night’s contest. Barring an upset, the Vineyarders will play in Wareham tomorrow afternoon at 1 p.m.
It was a high-energy scene last night and the Vineyarders came out flying against Rockland, jumping out to an early 10-4 lead. As he has done all season, Coach Joyce employed a punishing full-court press that confused the Bulldogs and forced numerous turnovers.
But the Bulldogs lived up to their name, showing a lot of fight throughout the game. They rallied back in the first quarter to tie the score at 11-11. The Vineyarders struggled on offense and shot badly in the first quarter, at one point missing eight consecutive shots.
But the team’s intensity never wavered, especially on defense, and when Randall Jette blocked a shot from the Bulldogs Joe Carlier, the home crowd exploded. After a three-pointer by Steve Handy, Jette stole the ball and went coast-to-coast, scoring an emphatic slam dunk that brought the home crowd to its feet.
The lead was 18-11 and the Bulldogs were reeling, but they still battled, cutting the lead to three points at 22-19. The Vineyarders took a comfortable 28-21 lead into the break, but the Bulldogs switched to a full-court press in the second half, which appeared to fluster the home team.
The Bulldogs cut the lead to 30-28 midway through the third period, but the Vineyarders then found their scoring touch, hitting shots on four consecutive possessions to push the lead to 43-31 at the end of the third quarter.
Momentum was solidly on the side of the Vineyard team, and facing a double digit deficit and an unfamiliar crowd of fans, it would have been easy for the Bulldogs to roll over. But like a zombie from a B movie, they would not stay dead.
Shaun Ball banked a shot in the paint; Rodney Lemite stole the ball and hit a runner; Dan Kimball stole the ball in the back court and hit a layup. All of a sudden the score was 50-43.
The Vineyarders for the most part kept pace, and built the lead back up 57-45, but when the Bulldogs hit three-point shots on three consecutive possessions, the lead dwindled to three points at 63-60.
But the Vineyarders clamped down on defense one last time, and turned the Bulldogs over several times in the final minute to seal up the 70-62 win.
Jette had a game-high 24 points in the win, Lamar Moreis had 15 and Handy finished with 12. Bryan White had 24 points in the loss for the Bulldogs, while Ball had 10 and Kimball finished with nine.
Looking ahead to the next game, Coach Joyce predicted an epic game if they do draw Wareham, the team that knocked the Vineyarders out of the state tournament two years ago in a thrilling overtime loss.
“Win or lose it’s going to be fun. I expect a battle,” the coach said.