The Vineyard varsity girls basketball team played for the first time in 11 days, tipping off against the defending Division 4 North champion Fenway High School Panthers of Boston, Friday afternoon at the “Sancy” Pachico Gym in Oak Bluffs.
Fenway’s Shania Tarver led all scorers with 23 points, and the Panthers used a swarming pressure defense to bottle up the Vineyard attack in a 52-35 non-league win.
“[Fenway] are a very athletic team,” Vineyard Coach Sterling Bishop said after the game. “They put a lot of pressure on our ball handlers offensively. Whoever had the ball initially was double-teamed.”
The Vineyard defense had a strong game as well, and was particularly physical and effective in the paint. With both defenses dominating play, turnovers were rife, and neither offense was able to establish a consistent rhythm. Too often, the Vineyarders tried to overcome the Panther press with home-run passes from the backcourt over the middle, which the ’Cats consistently intercepted.
The speedy Panthers (4-0) took the opening tip, made a beeline for the basket, and scored an easy layup to give an early indication of their offensive abilities. Curiously, from that point on, the visitors were more content walking the ball upcourt into a deliberate half-court set.
Meghan Sawyer scored the first Vineyard points of the game on a putback, to tie the score at 2-2. The Panthers responded with a 5-0 mini-run, which the Vineyarders quickly matched. Fenway closed out the first quarter with a buzzer-beating trey to take a 14-8 lead.
MV started brightly in the second period, with Molly DeBettencourt driving to the hole for two and setting up Rose Engler in the paint for another score on the next possession. After a Fenway bucket, DeBettencourt grabbed her second steal of the game, pulled up at the three-point line, hit a stop-and-pop trey, and completed the four-point play at the free-throw line to tie the game at 16-16. Fenway answered with a quick three, and the Vineyarders countered with a basket and free throw to tie the score again. It would be the last time. The Panthers closed out the second quarter on a 12-0 run to lead 31-19 at the half.
Both teams struggled offensively in the third period. Molly DeBettencourt hit a jumper at the 4:25 mark, and Meghan Sawyer banked a shot off the glass with 40 seconds left for the only home points of the period as the Panthers carried a 36-23 lead into the fourth quarter.
In the final period, the play of Vineyard freshman Kylie Estrella was a bright spot. She scored one basket and sank a pair of free throws. “She continues to show promise,” Coach Bishop said of the frosh.
Molly DeBettencourt finished the game with 17 points to go with seven boards, three steals, and a block. Rose Engler grabbed 10 rebounds, Meghan Sawyer added six points, and Lily Pigott chipped in three.
“Fenway is a very strong team,” Coach Bishop said. “They were the defending Division 4 North champs, and lost only two players from last year. It’s a small school, and kind of a perennial powerhouse. I think they have produced four Division 1–level college players in the past five years. We played well defensively. One of the things that worked well for us was our communication on the floor. We never give up; we continued to fight until the final buzzer against a team that outmatched us physically.”
The girls are back in action on Wednesday in Needham.