Vineyard girls beat Cathedral in thriller, 58-56

From left: Rose Engler, Lily Pigott, and Whitney Schroeder celebrate after the final whistle. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School girls varsity basketball team was back in action Saturday at home, where they took on a powerful team from Boston’s Cathedral High School. After dominating Monomoy Regional High School 69-30 last Wednesday, the Vineyarders came into Saturday’s game knowing they needed to keep up their strong play if they wanted a chance at taking down the Panthers, who beat the Vineyarders in their first game of the season.

The Panthers got off to a quick start after the opening tipoff, and led by seven with three minutes to go in the first quarter. That early lead wasn’t enough to get the Vineyarders down. In those final three minutes, the home team put up seven points to tie it, culminating with a beautiful three-point shot by sophomore guard Molly deBettencourt on a pass from senior forward and co-captain Sam Hargy. Cathedral went on to score one at the buzzer, closing out the first quarter with a two-point lead.

Cathedral opened scoring in the second quarter, taking a 22-19 lead on a free throw 44 seconds in. That was where the game really got interesting. With 6:36 to go in the second quarter, senior guard Emily Turney grabbed the ball from a Cathedral player and put it away, getting fouled in the process. She sunk her sole free throw, evening the score at 22 and setting the tone for the rest of the game, which would be a hard-fought battle for every inch.

“That’s a really good team,” Vineyard head Coach Maureen Hill said of the Panthers. “They’re physical, they move the ball well, they trap, and I thought my girls handled it really well.”

Cathedral took a slim lead after Turney’s free throw, but the Vineyard stayed close behind, dominating the final minutes of play. With 2:22 left in the quarter, junior forward and co-captain Erin Hill, the coach’s daughter, snatched a rebound and put it away, making the score 27-24 in favor of the Bostonians. Exactly a minute later, Hargy tightened the game with a two-point shot, cutting Cathedral’s lead to one. DeBettencourt then made a move for the lead, stealing a Cathedral pass with 30 seconds left and driving for the net. On her way there, she was hit hard by a Panthers defender and earned two free throws, both of which she made. That sent the game to halftime with the purple and white up by a score of 28-27.

“We just settled the ball down,” said Coach Hill. “Once we did that, we got back into the game, and then started pulling ahead a little bit.”

Junior guard Whitney Schroeder opened up scoring in the third quarter, sinking a two-pointer to put the Vineyarders up 30-27. From that point on, the game was really something special — both teams battled hard and traded the lead several times, but neither was able to muster any more than a three-point lead throughout the entire second half.

The third quarter ended on a low note for the home crowd, as Dejah Jenkins sank a three-pointer for the Panthers at the buzzer, putting Cathedral up 44-41. But the Vineyarders answered back quickly. Just 30 seconds into the fourth quarter, sophomore Lily Pigott sent a pass to Erin Hill, who in turn found deBettencourt just outside the three-point line. Without missing a beat, deBettencourt drained a three-pointer and tied the game up. Two minutes later, Jenkins again sank a three for the Panthers, giving Cathedral back the lead, but deBettencourt answered with a three of her own 15 seconds later, and put the Vineyard up 52-50 with 5:14 left. That was a lead the home team would never relinquish.

With just over a minute left, Erin Hill scored a crucial two-pointer to put the Vineyarders up 57-54, but Taliyah Countrymon was fouled just seconds later. Countrymon sank two free throws for the Panthers, cutting the Islanders’ lead to one. Turney was then fouled twice in the last minute, but much to the delight of the large away contingent, was unable to score on either set of free throws. With 5 seconds left in the game, the home crowd erupted as Schroeder was fouled in the scramble for a loose ball and sank one free throw to seal a hard-fought and much-deserved 58-56 victory for the Vineyarders.

“This is going to be great for us,” Coach Hill said. “It shows us that we can play with anybody. This team was in the D-IV South finals last year up at the Garden. For us to come in, play them and beat them here is going to really help us going forward.”

The Vineyarders’ next game is Friday at 4:30 pm in the MVRHS gym as they begin league play against the Coyle and Cassidy Warriors.