Oak Bluffs boys and Edgartown girls are hoops champs
Photo by Ezra Newick
A large and spirited crowd gathered Tuesday for the 2012 Interscholastic Championships between the top boys' and girls' elementary school basketball teams, and was treated to some great play and a stirring comeback in the second game.
In the first game of the night, the girls' championship game, the Edgartown Eagles faced the West Tisbury Hawks and came away with an easy 41-18 win. The Eagles were led by Samantha Hargy and Erin Hill, who had a noticeable height advantage over the smaller Hawks.
Hill Finished with 18 points and Hargy had 16, as the two players dominated on both sides of the ball. On offense they took turns scoring from the paint and seemed to grab just about every offensive rebound, and on defense they guarded the perimeter and shut down the Hawks' guards.
Coach Chad Nelson said his team played great on defense and passed the ball well, but said his team had a bad shooting night, despite the lop-sided score. He praised Hargy and Hill for setting the pace, but lauded all his players for playing a spirited game from start to finish.
"The defense was the real key to the win, and all our players were out there fighting for every loose ball and contesting every pass. They were terrific," he said.
Coach Nelson said he switched from a full court press early to a half court press in the second half largely because his players were showing signs of exhaustion. He said his team usually plays on a smaller court and the larger court at the high school was a challenge.
The Hawks came out swinging, and actually led the Eagles 5-4 in the opening minute on a post-up basket from Livi Smith. But The Eagles then went on an 8-0 run, led by the tandem of Hargy and Hill in the middle.
The Hawks were led by Whitney Schroeder who finished with 11 points and demonstrated exceptional ball-handling and passing skills. Although she did a great job of running the offense, she was stymied by Hargy and Hill who frequently double-teamed her out on the perimeter.
Schroder also showed tremendous grit and determination; after crashing to the ground in the second half and suffering an injury, she shook it off and returned to finish the game.
The second game of the night, the boys' championship between the West Tisbury Hawks and the Oak Bluffs Blazers, was a more competitive affair featuring a thrilling come-back and tension in the final few minutes as the Blazers won 31-26.
The Hawks entered the game undefeated on the season. Although there were no odds-makers handicapping the game, they were widely considered the favorite to win the championship game, led by their two standouts Chase Silva and Silas Berlin.
It looked as if things would go according to plan for the Hawks early, as they jumped out to an early 10-2 lead, led by two four points from Silva, including a spectacular coast-to-coast basket. The Blazers settled down and started making some baskets, but still trailed 14-7 at the half.
Coach Alex McClusky made some adjustments at the half, switching to a triangle zone on defense that helped keep the Hawk's Silva and Berlin covered at all times. He also told his team to slow things down, giving guard Dylan Araujo more time to distribute the ball and find the open man.
"What we were doing in the first half wasn't working. We came out a little timid and I think they were a little nervous, so we switched things up in the second half and started to pass the ball better on offense and shut down there two speedy players on defense," he said.
Early in the second half, Ben Clarke and Wayman Harrison had back-to-back baskets to pull the Blazers within three to start the half, and then scored back-to-back a few minutes later to pull their team to within one.
The Blazers took their first lead of the game at 21-20 on a basket by Tristain Araujo, and then put some distance between themselves and Hawks on a three-pointer by Dylan Araujo to go ahead 24-20.
The Hawks would tie things back up at 24-24 baskets by Isaac Higgins and Silva, but the Blazers surged back ahead on baskets by Clarke and Krishna Datta, who was fouled in the act and sank the free throw to make it 29-24.
At this point the Blazers slowed things down to try and run out the clock.
Hawks coach Zoe Turcotte said the last few minutes were frustrating. There is no shot clock in elementary school basketball, so her team was forced to foul to stop the clock. But the coach said she teaches her players, as a rule, not to foul their opponents.
So when it came time to foul the Blazers intentionally, they were not in the bonus, and had to foul four times to stop the clock and put the Blazers on the line.
Coach Turcotte was also visibly upset with the referees in the final minutes, especially on one play when Silva lined up for a three-point shot to tie the game but was rushed by three Blazers defenders. Whether a foul or not, the referees kept their whistles in their pocket.
After the game, Coach Turcotte took the high road.
"It was a frustrating end to the game, I will say that. But I am proud of the way my team played. We hustled all game, but we tightened up a little in the second half, and [the Hawks] really came out in with a lot of energy," she said.
"I think our team had an amazing season, and these were a great group of kids to coach and be around," she added.
Coach McClusky also praised his team after the game.
"Basketball in the end is still about heart. You can stand there with your hands open and not want it, or you can go and get it. And our kids went after it this season. It's been a great ride," he said.