Updated Wednesday, January 25
The Edgartown Eagles boys and girls basketball teams took care of business Friday night, dispatching the Oak Bluffs Blazers on Friday to sweep the junior high championships before a large and enthusiastic crowd at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
The top-seeded girls took game one of the doubleheader 41-19, while the second-seeded boys took the nightcap, 52-38.
The two contests followed similar scripts. Oak Bluffs started strong in both games, and battled hard all the way. But the Eagles began to take over by the midway point in the first half and pull away.
Early in the girls championship game, Oak Bluffs used a tight defense to stay even with the Eagles. With quick passing, the Blazers were finding open shots, but those shots weren’t falling, and offensive rebounds were hard to come by. Meanwhile, Edgartown was also missing shots, many of them at close range from offensive rebounds. Ten minutes into the first half, the game was a standstill.
A defensive adjustment changed the game. Edgartown switched to a half-court press, with three girls lined along the mid-stripe ready to pounce as the Blazers brought the ball upcourt. The move resulted in turnovers, fast breaks, and an offensive surge by the Eagles, who opened up a 23-8 lead by halftime. The press continued to stifle the Oak Bluffs offense in the second half as Edgartown maintained control the rest of the way.
Edgartown eighth graders Ruby Mercier and point guard Kaylie Estrella were a formidable duo. Their ability, speed, and height made them a threat on both offense and defense. The pair sparked the Eagle press, and led Edgartown in scoring with 14 and 13 points respectively.
The Oak Bluffs girls never let up. Hampered by the absence of veteran starters Victoria Searle and Rebecca Wadleigh due to the flu, the Blazers hustled and scrapped all the way. Guards Kaya Seaman and Ciara Hoyt typified that effort, pestering the Eagles with steals and jump-ball tie-ups to the final buzzer. Leah Hairston led Oak Bluffs with eight points.
Edgartown Coach Chad Nelson said the game “capped off a great season for us.” and praised the leadership of his eighth graders. “We have a good nucleus coming back next year,” he added.
The Edgartown boys came into the championship game against Oak Bluffs with some extra motivation. The Eagles finished the regular season at 6-2, with both losses coming against the 7-1 Blazers.
According to Edgartown Coach Nelson Oliver, the Eagles had their best week of practice all season leading up to the big game. “We concentrated on defense and on working together as a team, on respecting each other. It really paid off,” he said.
Teamwork was indeed a major factor in Edgartown’s impressive win. The hot three-point shooting of the Blazers’ Andrew Marchand and Edgartown’s Aiden Rogers kept the game close until midway through the first half. Gradually, the Eagles’ balanced offense, along with their superior height and team speed, helped them pull away. Their 1-3-1 zone defense kept Blazers center Miles McNeal bottled up and allowed them to control the boards. On the offensive end, quick passing and constant movement put pressure on the Oak Bluffs defense. By halftime, Edgartown led 26-19.
The trend continued in the second half. The Eagles were in sync, operating in high gear at both ends of the court. Edgartown continued to create open shots and confine the Blazers offense, taking charge of the game to nail down the win.
“Teamwork and intelligent play were the keys for us tonight,” said Coach Oliver. “We weren’t always on the same page this year. We were playing as individuals. That all changed during the week, and it showed tonight.”
Edgartown eighth grader Aiden Rogers led all scorers with 23 points. Gabe Brito scored nine for the Eagles, and Dylan Burke had eight. Josh Billings led the Blazers with 14 points. Andrew Marchand scored 12, and Miles McNeal added 10.