They hustled, they fought for rebounds and they battled through a tenacious full court press, but in the end the boys' basketball team just couldn't match a larger and quicker team from Scituate Wednesday, falling 73-41 in the second round of the Division 3 south region state tournament.
Earlier in the week, the Vineyarders overcame a first half deficit against a talented team from Carver to win their first round playoff game at home, before going on the road to face the 18-2 Scituate juggernaut.
The Vineyarders fell behind by 12 points in the first four minutes on Wednesday and were down by as many as 38 in the second half - but continued to battle, contesting shots and chasing down loose balls at every turn.
When coach Mike Joyce emptied his bench in the final minutes of the game, the second and third string players held their own and actually managed to shave points from the Sailors' lead.
Meanwhile, the boys' hockey team defeated Mansfield 3-1 in their first round playoff game, and will continue their run tomorrow against perennial powerhouse and familiar foe Coyle-Cassidy at the Gallo Arena in Bourne.
The sixth seeded Vineyarders, whose record now stands at 12-4-5, will be looking to turn the tables against Coyle-Cassidy, the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year 10-0.
The 14th seeded Vineyarders defeated 19th seeded Carver by a score of 67-57 in the opening round playoff game at home Monday, although the win didn't come easy.
The Knights used an aggressive full court press to force several turnovers in the first half, helping them to an early 11-7 lead. But the Vineyarders matched the Knights basket for basket as the half unfolded - despite some questionable shot selections and missed free throws - and were able to take a slight 26-23 lead at the half.
The Vineyard boys did a good job of shutting down the prolific Richie King, the South Shore League's leading scorer, holding him to only six points in the first half, and 17 overall in the game. Both teams used a swarming full court press which led to an emotionally charged and physical contest.
When Vineyard forward Bubba Brown inadvertently elbowed King in the face early in the second half, Knights coach Roger King rushed onto the court and demanded that the game be halted. After he conferred with his star player on the sideline, however, the subdued coach returned to the sideline and the game resumed.
The Vineyarders exploded to start the second half, as Tim McHugh hit a runner, Nick Viera drained a long three-pointer and Terrell Johnson stole a pass and went coast to coast for a layup to give the home team a 33-23 edge.
The scrappy Knights stormed back to within one point with a pair of three-pointers of their own, but were never able to take the lead. As the game passed the ten-minute mark in the second half, emotions on both sides ratcheted up another notch, as players disputed every pass, contested every shot and scrapped for loose balls.
The Vineyarders finally found the lift they needed when reserve Mike O'Donoghue - playing for starting guard Nick Viera who fouled out of the game - came in and hit a three-pointer and a mid-range jumper to give the home team a ten-point cushion and put the game away for good.
Terrell Johnson finished with 13 points and Nick Viera had 15 points, including two three-pointers, while Jacob Vanderhoop finished with 12 points. Carver's King managed to lead all scorers with 17 points.
Later Coach Joyce said his team played well in the face of an aggressive and physical defense.
"You could tell [Carver] really wanted that game, and in the end it came down to a battle of wills," he said.
It came down to a battle of wills again Wednesday when the Vineyarders faced heavily favored Scituate in the second round.
But it was clear from the start all that the hustle in the world wasn't going to even the score against the talented Sailors, who held a clear size advantage in the middle with six-foot eight-inch Blaine O'Brien and six-foot seven-inch Sean McCarthy.
The Vineyarders tried their aggressive full court press and quick guard play that had served them so well against Carver, but in the end the strategy played right into the hands of the Scituate team.
The Sailors repeatedly lobbed passes over Vineyard defenders, finding either O'Brien or McCarthy alone in the paint. To make matters worse, their tandem of talented guards - Mike Steele and Alex Hernan - were able to pick off passes in the back court.
After the Sailors roared out to a 22-8 lead in the opening minutes, Coach Joyce called his second time out of the game to calm his players down. He substituted little-used reserve Nico Cuba, who gave the Vineyarders a lift with a three-pointer and a jump shot from the wing.
But the boost was short lived.
With eight minutes left in the first half, the Sailors' Alex Danowski stole the ball and passed to Dante Cohen for a coast-to-coast layup, building the lead past the 20-point mark.
The Vineyarders cut the lead to 39-25 by the half, but the Sailors ran away with the game early in the second half on a string of fast-break baskets.
The rim was unkind to the Vineyarders; several shots danced on the cylinder before falling out. The shooting woes were compounded by several players having bad nights at the foul line.
The usually steady Viera - who seems to score 15 points every game - was shut down almost entirely by Cohen, while Steele stuck to Terrell Johnson like a glove. With the Sailors up by over 30 with seven minutes to play, Scituate coach Matt Poirer began to pull his starters. Coach Joyce did the same just minutes later.
Viera, Jawan Johnson and Terrell Johnson finished the game with six points apiece.
You might think the hockey team's convincing 3-1 win over Mansfield in the opening round of the Division 2 south region tournament would put a smile of the face of coach Matt Mincone, but think again.
The longtime coach said his team played well in the win, but could have played better.
"I don't want to take anything away from them, because it was a good win. But I don't think we played our best game. I think the players looked at the game like we were supposed to win because we were a 6th seed and they were an 11th seed, and they didn't really have that killer instinct the whole game," he said.
Third-line mates Mitch Pachico and Sam Hurd scored 15 seconds apart in the first period to give the Vineyard an early 2-0 lead, and Steve Greenburg scored in the third period to round out the game.
The Vineyarders controlled the tempo of the game from the start, outshooting Mansfield 26-13, but went scoreless in the second period despite taking 11 shots on goal. The Hornets' Eddie O'Brien slipped the puck past Vineyard goalie Alex Minehann midway through the third period.
Coach Mincone said his team played it best hockey after a 5-0 win last month against a talented team from Lynnfield. He had hoped the team would maintain that level of play but feels his players may have reverted back to early season form.
"I hope the team realizes just how talented they are. They are capable of beating anyone on any day, but there've been inconsistencies from game to game," he said.
The Vineyarders face off against third-seed Coyle-Cassidy tomorrow. "It's the match-up I had hoped for, and a lot of the players had hoped for after what happened last year. This is the team we were hoping to get," Coach Mincone said, adding cautiously:
"But I hope it's not a case of ‘be careful what you wish for.' "