Edgartown’s Lady Eagles prevailed over the Oak Bluffs Blazers, 36-35, in a brilliant basketball game that was literally not decided until after it was over.
Trailing 31-22 with less than five minutes to play for the championship, the Blazers, led by uber-player Molly deBettencourt, stormed off on a 13-5 run to trail by a point with the ball and 42.8 seconds left. Everyone in the building knew the play: Feed Molly. And, draped with defenders, Molly shot, shot, and shot, frustrated by maddening rim-outs and can’t-misses that did.
She shot four times, and the smaller O.B. team, amazingly, won the rebound war underneath each time and got the ball outside to Molly.
Molly is a gifted basketball player, a perimeter shooter who can also slash inside and score. But with 30, 20, 10 seconds left, there was no inside. The paint was packed with jostling players with two defenders in the key to harass the game’s leading scorer with 28 points.
On the fourth shot, Sage Araujo grabbed the rebound for O.B. and was fouled with 0:00 on the clock. Her free throws were center rim but short and hopes for a post-buzzer win or overtime evaporated amid the screams of a happy and relieved Eagles bench.
The game featured contrasting styles. O.B. featured a running game off transition operated by Rose Engler and Molly. Edgartown preferred a half-court set, working off Clare Naughton in the middle, who fed ball-handler and sharpshooter Devin Hill or rolled to the hoop herself.
Clare was the tallest tree on the court, athletic, a worker with good basketball IQ and a low post defensive presence like Judgment Day. None of us wants to face Judgment Day, so the trick for O.B. was to transition quickly before Edgartown set up.
The teams probed in the first five minutes before O.B. went off on a 13-2 run to lead, 17-7, with 3:18 in the half. After an Edgartown timeout, Clare and Devin combined for the final six points of the half, Edgartown trailing, 17-13, at the half.
Edgartown came out firing in the second half with a 13-2 run that put the Eagles up, 26-19, with less than 10 minutes to play. Both teams continued their stellar defensive play, contesting every possession and rebound. For example, the teams combined for 14 jump balls, meaning that a defensive player tied up the ball in an offensive player’s hands.
For the fans, that kind of play heightened the intensity of a contest dominated by Molly DeBettencourt and Clare Naughton (16 points). Devin Hill had 10 points for Edgartown, followed by Megan Warenski (6), Meghan Sawyer (3), and Caitlyn Patenaude (2). Rose Engler had five points for O.B.
With five minutes left, Edgartown led, 26-19, with Clare getting looks inside and Devin with drives and outside shooting. Then Molly went off for O.B., scoring 11 points in less than three minutes, including the game’s only trey and setting up the final game-ending drama. Molly scored all of her team’s second-half points.
Eagles coach Chad Nelson stood quietly on the court after the Eagles had clinched their third consecutive title. “Pretty good game,” he understated with a smile. “These kids all played hard. We were able to protect better in the second half. We played zone which I don’t like to do, but we we’re trying to get the ball out of Molly’s hands.
“Megan Warenski stepped up, found her outside shot, Big contribution. And number 11, Kiana Casey, really stepped up with some big rebounds. Will I come back next year? Yeah, I think so. The joy is teaching these kids, watching them get focus and hold it.”
On the O.B. side, coach Alex McCluskey consoled his team and turned with a tired smile. ”Well, we played a game worthy of a championship,” he said about a game that both teams deserved to win. “We went with our strength. Sometimes you can come back from nine points and sometimes you can’t.”