The polished hardwood of the regional high school basketball court gleamed beneath the bright gymnasium lights, reflecting the figures of the 10 players racing up and down the lanes. The championship game of the boys’ middle school basketball season was underway.
The novelty of playing at the Vineyard version of the big time, the Francis “Sancy” Pachico Gymnasium, was there for both teams on the court.
But for the Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School Chargers, there was also a taste of the novel just in shooting hoops inside a gym. The Chargers are a team without walls; they generally practice outdoors on an asphalt court and spend one day a week using the Tisbury School gym. They play home games at the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club in Edgartown.
But despite the lack of a home gym and despite the youth of the team (a mix of both seventh and eighth graders, compared with the all-eighth grade squads of many other junior high programs), the Chargers pulled off a dream season to end up in the finals for the first time in the team’s 17-year history — the entire existence of the charter school itself.
On Tuesday night at the high school gym they faced the Edgartown Eagles, a one-loss team known across the Island for its pinpoint jump shooting.
The two teams proved evenly matched in the first half, as both defenses went to work, grabbing rebounds and snaring loose balls to keep the game a close one. Fan excitement was high on both sides of the court, with families waving handmade banners and posters.
The Eagles got on the board first and garnered a small lead, but it was short-lived; once the Chargers had scored their eighth point, neither team led by more than two. The Eagles’ Jordan Tate scored on a breakaway to give his team a slight lead, 27-25, as the second half began.
The tight first half was reminiscent of the previous week’s semifinals game when the charter school, a number three seed, defeated the second-seeded Oak Bluffs Blazers 51-49 to qualify for the championships. They had never defeated Oak Bluffs in any game, let alone one with such historical significance.
History was split for the Chargers as far as Edgartown was concerned; the charter school handed the Eagles their only loss in the first game of the season, but lost in their next meeting.
In the second half of the game Edgartown’s experienced starting five locked down on defense and settled into their formidable passing game. With 9:31 left in the game, the Eagles scored 10 points in a row to jump to a 46-35 lead, which they never relinquished. The game ended 56-40, Edgartown.
“Our boys, they hung together and we just told them to push it down the court — eventually it paid off,” coach Pat Mercier said after the game.
The Edgartown coaches said they had been more concerned about facing the charter school than about a potential matchup against higher-seeded Oak Bluffs.
“They had the potential, they had the speed, they had the athleticism, and they had Ricardo [Andrade],” assistant coach Darren Belisle said, referring to the Chargers’ team captain Ricardo, who scored 20 points to lead both teams. Ennis Foster of Edgartown scored 14, and teammate Thomas Weston had 12. Jordan Tate and Nick Bond each had 11. Jared Rivard of the charter school scored seven points, as did teammate Ethan Hall. Mr. Penicaud told the Gazette on Monday that he was excited about the Chargers’ future. He has coached the team since 2001, and has co-coached with Asil Cash, his teammate from the men’s recreational basketball league, for three years.
“Each year this team has really improved,” he said. “There’s a culture that I think is being formed at the school each year with eighth grade captains . . . passing down the legacy to want to be involved and to be a leader.” The team will lose captains Jared Rivard and Avery Minor, but Ricardo, a seventh grader, will be back next year.
On Tuesday, Mr. Penicaud thanked the charter school family and fans for a great season, saying he was “confident that we’ll be practicing more and even harder next season.
“It’s amazing — we’re so proud.”
The Eagles’ championship title was the second of the day for Edgartown, as the school pulled off a sweep of the junior high league. It marked the second year in a row for the Lady Eagles to pick up a trophy of their own with a 44-38 win over Oak Bluffs.
Edgartown faced a determined Blazers team led by Molly DeBettencourt (18 points) and her classmates Lacey Dinning (nine points) and Rose Engler (five points).
The Eagles relied on height and sharpshooting to pull ahead with four minutes left in the game, going on a scoring spree and leading 42-33 with two and a half minutes left.
Eighth grader Erin Hill had a standout game, scoring 26 points for the Eagles and leading the way in rebounds. Meaghan Sawyer had six points, and Kylie Hathaway and Rebeca Lima had four apiece.