Martha’s Vineyard upsets top-ranked Wareham to reach final four

Jack Fielding, Nick Costello, and Brandon Watkins grab on to Vineyard coach Mike Joyce as the final seconds tick away. Malik Johnson is at far left. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

Payback is sweet. The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School boys basketball team had to wait 12 months, but Saturday afternoon at the University of Massachusetts Boston campus in the MIAA Division 3, south sectional final they knocked out top seeded Wareham, 77-71.

Last year, in the same game, at the same venue, the Vineyarders watched their hopes of a state title disappear in a 70-65 loss to the Vikings, a game in which M.V. never recovered from an early 21-3 deficit.

Nearly 300 Vineyard fans, many wearing t-shirts with “Beat Wareham” printed across the chest, made the trip and easily out-yelled their Wareham counterparts.

The seventh seeded Vineyarders (18-5) now stand two games away from winning their first state championship in the program’s history. On Tuesday, they will travel to Boston Garden to play Danvers (22-2), the second seeded Mass North champs, in the state semifinals. The Vineyard boys last played in a Garden tournament game in 1973. The game begins at 4:15 pm.

Tickets to the game for six fan buses sponsored by the MV Hoops Club with the support of Our Market in Oak Bluffs and Your Market in Edgartown are sold out.

The state final will be played Saturday at the Worcester Centrum.

Quick start

Saturday against Wareham, the Vineyarders got off to a much better start than in 2012 and never let the Vikings lead by more than four points.

The key down the stretch was Navardo Anderson, who scored the Vineyard’s final eight points. With the game tied at 69-69, the 6-foot, 2-inch Vineyard senior put the Purple ahead after securing a rebound and scoring on a putback. He added an exclamation point by jamming in his second dunk to make it 73-69 with a minute to play. Anderson finished up a monster fourth quarter by sinking four consecutive free throws.

Wareham (22-2) came into the game riding a 22-game winning streak and got outstanding play from senior Darien Fernandez, who scored 21 points. Sam Brogioli also scored 21 and was unstoppable from the three-point arc.

The Vineyarders countered the Vikings with excellent perimeter shooting of their own in the first half and aggressive inside play in half two. M.V. did a great job, particularly, in the first half, of limiting second chance baskets underneath.

“Defensively, we kept trying to switch up the zone,” Vineyard coach Mike Joyce said. “They [Wareham] did a great job of finding guys who were open and we just tried to not let Darien [Fernandez] kill us like he did last year.”

Izak Browne and DeShawn James each scored 15 points for the Vineyarders. Jack Roberts had 13 and Navardo Anderson 11. The Vineyarders scored eight three-pointers; three by Browne, two each by Roberts and Brandon Watkins, and a huge trey by Kane Araujo to tie the game at 67-67, with three minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The Vineyarders led for much of the game. Wareham had a 16-13 lead late in the first quarter and would not lead again until early in the final period. The Vineyarders went on a 11-0 run make it 24-16 in the second quarter and, following a Jack Roberts trey, had their largest lead of the game at 36-25. At halftime, M.V. led 43-36.

After the break, the Vineyarders picked up where they left off and led 53-43 mid way through the third quarter. Wareham ran off a 9-0 run and trailed just 60-58 entering the final period. From there the game remained tight until Navardo Anderson took over.

“It was such a good game, back and forth,” coach Joyce said following the win. “Their three-point shooter [Sam Brogioli] was tremendous, kept them in the game. We made some big threes to start. Brandon, especially in the first half, made some huge threes…in the second half, we really worked the ball inside and Navardo Anderson made free throws, big plays all the way around.”