Martha’s Vineyard skips the madness of March, no RCBL

The Heat won it all in 2009-10 and 2010-11. Here is the first championship squad. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

The gym at the Martha’s Vineyard Boys and Girls Club in Edgartown has been far more quiet on Monday nights for the past five months. For the first time in more than two decades, the RCBL, the Island’s adult basketball league, failed to materialize over the winter.

League commissioner Greg Rollins stepped down after the 2010-11 season following two years of yeoman service by MVBGC executive director Pete Lambos. Longtime official scorekeeper and statistician Jerry Maciel also called it a day after last season. With no one stepping forward to fill the leadership void, the league went on hiatus for the 2011-12 season.

Signs are good, however, that the RCBL will resume play for the 2012-13 season. Team captains have been in discussions with Mr. Lambos about the availability of the gym and the traditional Monday night slot is still open. Additionally, MVBGC program director Abby Leighton has agreed to become the new RCBL commissioner. Ms. Leighton said in a phone call with the Times April 3 that she is hopeful that teams can be in place by October with play starting in November.

As an Island fixture for so many years, the league has a colorful history.

The RCBL, the Robyn (Wingate) and Corly (Maciel) Basketball League, began play in 1986, with six teams competing in the Tisbury school gymnasium.

In 1991, the league, now grown to eight teams, moved to the Edgartown Boys & Girls Club, which had a somewhat larger floor and a three-point line lacking in what Corly called the Tisdome.

Elmer Silva’s Lakers had a string of winning seasons and were often the team to beat. Beside Elmer, some of the high-scoring Lakers included Heath Estrella, Bobby Moore, Fain Hackney, Bobbie Brown, and John Healy.

There was never a dirth of surprises in the RCBL. One of the more memorable playoff finals game was in 1993. The Spurs and the Bulls had each won a game in the best two of three finals series setting up a winner-take-all third contest.

The Bulls had had the winningest season. The Spurs were the reigning champs, having won the honors in the ’92 playoffs.

By the time the third and final game was ready to begin, only three Bulls had shown up: Dale Rogers, Wayne “the Microwave” Elliott, and Pete Bergeron.

Short-handed as they were, the Bulls pulled it off and won the game and league championship.

The Timberwolves, led by Mike and Chris Joyce, Adam Rebello and Travis Baptiste, won back to back titles in ’05 and ’06, then dismantled the team.

Another memorable surprise involved the Spurs. Before the season opened, team captains held a draft. Captains could “protect” three players from their previous year’s team. After that it was a matter of selection from the pool of unclaimed players, like kids choosing sides on the playground. At the very end of the process one name was left: John Taylor. No one knew anything about him except that he was a young Methodist minister recently arrived on the Island. And he wasn’t very big. George Santos, captain of the Spurs, volunteered, “I’ll take him.” It turned out that Taylor was a three-point whiz. He finished the ’92 season with the most points scored, powering the Spurs to the championship.

The Timberwolves won back-to-back titles in ’05 and ’06.

In ’07 the Legends won only two games of their 12-game schedule, but come playoff time they were unbeatable, trouncing first the Lakers and then, in the finals, the Heat.

The Bulls won in 2008, followed by the Lakers in 2009.

The last two years 2010 and 2011, the Heat, led by Sandy Fisher, took it all.

Regrettably, the RCBL never got it together this year and there was no March Madness here. It is fondly to be hoped that 2012 will see a rebirth of an Island tradition worth preserving.