March Madness began a few days early for the winter sports postseason, with Vineyard teams going four-for-four in their first games of the state tournament. Girls’ basketball picked up two wins this week, defeating Ashland 49-45 in an away game Tuesday and downing visiting East Bridgewater 52-34 late yesterday, while the boys’ team took a 79-46 home win over Dedham on Wednesday. Girls’ hockey took home a 5-0 win against Dennis-Yarmouth on Tuesday.

The boys’ hockey team received a first-round bye and will play their first tournament game tomorrow against Oliver Ames at Brockton.

girls hockey
Callie Jackson(24) scored a pretty goal against D-Y. — Mark Alan Lovewell

The Island teams have enjoyed exceptional support from fans despite the fact that this is school vacation week, with full crowds turning out for all three of the home games, braving even the chill of the arena to cheer on the girls’ hockey team as it picked up the program’s first-ever playoff win.

Senior Celia Mercier kicked off the Vineyard scoring early on, nailing a wraparound goal just 1:42 into the first period on a trademark assist from junior Emily Cimeno. Junior goalie Texe Craig made six saves on her end of the ice in the first, but had little to do in the second period as the defense, helmed by seniors Olivia Cimeno, Lily Gazaille and Maggie Johnson and junior Tayla Kuehne, kept the puck well away from the net.

The offense gathered momentum in the second as well, as Cimeno and Mercier teamed up to assist freshman Aubrey Ashmun on a second-period goal, sophomore Callie Jackson landed a beautiful goal from 20 feet out on an assist from Johnson, and Mercier closed out on a shorthanded breakaway shot to give the girls a 4-0 lead.

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Vineyard girls buzzed the Dennis-Yarmouth net all night. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Junior Kassidy Bettencourt capped the Vineyard scoring in the third on an assist from Jackson. Craig preserved her second shutout of the season on a late kick-save as the crowd attempted to encourage Mercier to a hat trick. Every skater on the team took a shift on the ice in the final minutes.

“It’s unbelievable,” assistant coach Andre Bonnell said after the game. “I don’t have words to describe this.”

“That’s as nervous as I’ve ever been before a game,” said head coach John Fiorito. “We wanted to get to the tournament and then you get there . . . they peaked at the right time, they had the crowd [cheering] like that . . . now it’s really all gravy.”

The girls travel to Canton today to play fourth-seeded Norwood; addressing the team after the win, Coach Fiorito acknowledged that “things get a lot tougher,” but reminded the players to enjoy the ride, prompting applause and a celebratory spray of crushed ice from Johnson.

On Wednesday afternoon the bleachers of the regional high school gymnasium filled for the boys’ basketball team’s first game, against visiting Dedham.

The Vineyarders controlled the ball from the first whistle, as senior Peter Keaney grabbed the tipoff and took it home for a three-pointer, his first of three treys in the game. Dedham, stifled by the Vineyard defense, was unable to score for the first three and a half minutes, but pulled within four points of the home team before the offense surged to a 25-15 lead—eleven of the points scored by Keaney—at the close of the first quarter.

boys basketball
Senior Del Araujo is focused on rebounds. — Mark Alan Lovewell

The lead steadily extended throughout the game, with the Vineyard up by 23 at the half thanks to stellar playmaking by junior Jack Roberts and key rebounds by seniors Del Araujo, Charlie Everett and Will Stewart. The defense, meanwhile, held their opponents to eight points in the second quarter, with senior Ryan Fisher, playing sick, effectively shutting down Dedham’s leading scorer, Jeremy Clifford.

Head coach Mike Joyce described the effort as the best half of basketball the team has played all year.

Dedham put points on the board first in the second half, but the aggressive Vineyard offense continued to roll as Keaney, Roberts and senior Izak Browne powered their way to the net time and again.

boys basketball
Senior Peter Keaney. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Keaney finished the game with 27 points and eight rebounds, while Roberts scored 15 (with two three-pointers). Browne notched 11 points (two three-pointers). Araujo, Stewart and Everett scored six points each.

“So many people played so well today,” Coach Joyce summed up after the game.

As in the girls’ hockey game, virtually the entire team contributed to the win. “Everyone that was able to [one player was injured] got off the bench” and saw playing time, said Coach Joyce, much to the delight of the home crowd.

boys basketball
Junior Jack Roberts, a stellar playmaker. — Mark Alan Lovewell

And the home crowd was on its feet again 24 hours later, cheering on the girls’ basketball team. The girls were fresh off a close 49-45 away win over sixth-seeded Ashland, but their opponents had just pulled off an upset of their own over third-seeded Randolph, setting the scene for an underdog showdown.

The teams got off to a back-and-forth start, with the Vineyard trailing by one at the end of the first quarter. East Bridgewater continued to answer each of the Vineyard shots in the second; outstanding scrappy defense from seniors Madison Hughes and Alex Mark combined with a pair of Jennie Lindland shots to keep the game in reach. With two minutes remaining, junior Alayna Hutchinson grabbed an East Bridgewater rebound and dished the ball halfway down the court to fellow junior Kendall Robinson, who nailed the equalizing layup. The Vineyarders never looked back.

The defense was in full effect in the third quarter, holding East Bridgewater to just four points. Junior Katie Stewart kicked off a 17-point Vineyard spree by hitting three shots in a row, while Lindland, Robinson and senior Maggie Riseborough were rock solid from the line, going a combined seven-for-eight in the quarter.

East Bridgewater attempted a rally in the fourth, but the Vineyard offense showed no signs of slowing; the girls put up 13 points to take the 53-34 win.

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Vineyard girls celebrate sweet victory. — Mark Alan Lovewell

Lindland finished the game with 16 points, while Riseborough had 12. Robinson and Stewart scored 10 apiece.

Continuing the trend set in the other home games, all members of the team saw playing time

“I couldn’t have asked for more,” head coach Lisa Stewart said after the game. “We have two freshmen [Lucy Hackney and Emily deBettencourt] — for them to get in is incredible.”

With the win, the girls move on to the semifinals of the South Section Division Two tournament, where they will play either Fairhaven or Norwell.

“They have a taste [now] of what it is to have fun and win at the same time,” coach Stewart said. “It takes a few times [playing] to get that poise.”

Home court advantage has now ended for the two girls’ teams, but the boys’ basketball squad plays in the quarterfinals today against Bishop Feehan, a team that handed them one of their two regular-season losses. Game time is at 5:45 p.m.

For boys’ hockey fans who want to travel to the game, the booster club is sponsoring a bus that will be on the noon boat out of Vineyard Haven on Saturday. To sign up e-mail Bill Davies at or call 774-563-1830.