Opportunity knocks in the postseason. But for the Vineyard boys’ basketball and hockey teams, which both ended their tournament runs this week, so did a bit of history.
For the hockey squad, it was a familiar spot in the division two bracket and a familiar locale: the section quarterfinals played at Asiaf Arena in Brockton, where the Vineyarders had seen their previous two seasons end. In a hard-fought and fast-paced match last Saturday, the team fell 3-1 to number three seed Medfield.
For the basketball team, it was a rematch three years in the making with Cardinal Spellman on Wednesday night in Taunton in the division three south section semifinals. The teams hadn’t played each other since the Vineyard took a crushing 88-85 double overtime defeat in the 2011 tournament, and although the players in the lineups had changed since then, the programs remained well-matched. They entered as the number two (Spellman) and three (Vineyard) seeds in the bracket, with identical 18-4 season records. The Vineyarders were co-champions of the Eastern Athletic Conference, Spellman the winners of the Catholic Central League.
Wednesday’s game ended in overtime in a contest decided by one point. The Vineyard fell 64-63.
“It was a battle the whole time,” head coach Mike Joyce said after the basketball game. “Our kids made a lot of big plays at the right time. They made the plays down the stretch, and we just didn’t.”
Down by four points after the first quarter, the Vineyard came back in the second as senior Navardo Anderson and juniors Tim Roberts and Alex GordonBeck ground out a lead. Roberts, with 12 rebounds overall, was deadly on the boards; GordonBeck’s quick reflexes led to three steals in the second quarter alone.
“Defensively, our kids played great today, they really played hard, really got after it,” Coach Joyce said. “In the last five or six games our defense just took it up a couple notches there.” Senior co-captain Kane Araujo, tasked with guarding Spellman’s leading scorer Ryan Roach, held the four-year starter and former league MVP to 14 points.
“It was certainly the best defensive job on him that anyone’s done all year; [Kane] just made him work for every inch that he took,” Coach Joyce said.
But Spellman’s defense was equal to the challenges and thwarted the Vineyard offense by shaking up its transition game. As the second half began, the Cardinals held the Vineyard to just four points until the final three minutes of the third, when the lead changed hands six times. Senior Deshawn James scored six Vineyard points in a row to put the team up by three as the fourth quarter began.
With five minutes remaining, the Vineyard was ahead by ten points. Spellman rattled off eight unanswered points to eat away at the lead.
“It really came down to us not taking care of the ball the way we needed to,” Coach Joyce said. “We had 25-26 turnovers, and when you lose a game by one and have that many extra possessions . . . that’s where it all lies, right there.”
The decibel level of the gymnasium rose several notches as fans engaged in a raucous cheering battle — three busloads of Vineyard fans had made the trip to Taunton. With eight seconds left in regulation, Spellman’s Joe Crane hit a jumper to tie the game 51-51. As overtime began, it appeared that Spellman would continue to rack up the points, but the Vineyard kept a win in sight thanks to free throws by Roberts and James. A clutch Kane Araujo three-pointer with 13 seconds left put the teams just one point apart, 62-61.
Spellman eked ahead on free throws; with 10 seconds left James hit his final shot of the night to make the score 64-63, but time had run out for the Vineyard.
Roberts finished the game with 21 points, while James had 12 points and six steals. GordonBeck finished with 10 points, Araujo with nine, and Anderson with eight.
“We always have high expectations, but we had a lot of new parts and things to fit together,” Coach Joyce said, reflecting on the season. “I think the seniors really came together as the year went along.” Five seniors graduate, but there is “a good group of juniors and underclassmen coming back.”
“Nine months is a long time,” Coach Joyce said. “It’s up to them now to put some work in and get ready for next year — this is their time to make some strides.”
On The Ice
On the Ice “They had the pressure on us,” hockey head coach Matt Mincone said of Saturday’s contest against Medfield. “We knew we were going to have to be patient and capitalize on every opportunity we had.”
Medfield, a fast-skating, quick-passing squad, came out strong and held the Vineyard in their own zone for much of the first period, keeping sophomore goaltender Wyatt Jenkinson busy in the crease.
But the Vineyard has demonstrated patience on the ice all season, and with less than six minutes remaining in the period, senior defender Andrew Carroll knocked the puck out of the Vineyard zone to kickstart an offensive push. Senior co-captains Tyson Araujo and Brian Fraser, the 1-2 scoring tandem in Massachusetts division two hockey, put the Vineyard on the board, with Fraser slipping an Araujo rebound past Medfield keeper Dan Graham.
Jenkinson, who ended the day with 24 saves, dispatched a flurry of Medfield shots at the close of the period to stave off the Warrior attack.
Junior Alexander Vukota’s slap shot and sophomore Emerson Mahoney’s speed challenged Graham throughout the second period, but increased Medfield offensive pressure gave the Warriors their first goal just shy of the nine-minute mark. Seven seconds later, the team struck again to take the lead.
The Warriors put their final goal away in the third period. A strong Vineyard rush in the final minute, with Jenkinson pulled for another attacker, came up short.
“I think we worked harder as the game went on,” Coach Mincone said. “They emptied their tanks physically, emotionally . . . that’s what you want to see in a game like this.”
The team closed the season with a 14-6-2 record. Araujo notched 23 goals and 48 assists, while Fraser had 33 goals and 17 assists. Five players — Araujo, Fraser, Carroll, Vukota and Andrew Wiley — were named to the Eastern Athletic Conference all-star team. The Vineyard went 6-2 in league play, taking home a share of the conference title for the first time (a loss in the final league game denied the team the outright title).
“We had some good opportunities pass by us, but at the same time, we put ourselves in the spot to have [those] good opportunities,” Coach Mincone said. He singled out the team’s first playoff match, a 2-1 overtime win against Sandwich, as an example of ”a good, hard-fought game that put us where we belonged.”
Four seniors graduate from the program, but leave a strong foundation of this year’s fourteen varsity freshmen and sophomores, along with the now-seasoned junior leaders.
“The core group that’s coming back, they have an idea of how they’re going to have to play to be successful,” Coach Mincone said.