The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) boys basketball team was operating on all cylinders on Monday as they overwhelmed a younger and smaller Bishop Feehan team, 65-48, in front of nearly 300 fans at the Sancy Pachico Gymnasium in Oak Bluffs. The Vineyarders, controlling all facets of the game, built a 37-16 halftime lead and never looked back.
This was not your usual Vineyard-Feehan contest. The two teams have dominated the Eastern Athletic Conference (EAC) over the past seven years, with the Vineyard winning four titles, the teams sharing honors twice, and Feehan winning in 2016.
Feehan, however, had lost twelve seniors from last year’s championship team to graduation, leaving only one returning player. The result was an uncharacteristic losing record at 3-5 coming into this matchup against their traditional rival. In addition, they were without their only big man, junior center Brad Nelson. By contrast, the 7 and 2 Vineyarders, a veteran group with depth and strong leadership, came into the game healthy and with considerable momentum.
Feehan’s record notwithstanding, this was still a big game, and a large, enthusiastic crowd for both sides settled in for the opening tap. Aggressive defense and cold shooting on both ends of the court marked the early going. The height difference between the squads was evident, however, and the home team was controlling the boards. Holding a slim lead late in the first period, the Vineyarders full-court press paid sudden dividends. A basket, followed by two quick steals off the press, resulted in six points and an 18-8 first-quarter lead.
The defensive burst seemed to settle the Vineyarders, as they found their rhythm and took control of the play. Vineyard Coach Mike Joyce liked what he saw.
“Lately, we’ve been waiting for the second half to kick it in on defense,” he said after the game. “Today it was the whole game.”
Evidence of that was everywhere. The quick-changing Vineyard defense, from zone to man-to-man, to trapping press, kept the visitors on their heels. The press stifled the Shamrocks in their backcourt, leading to steals. When they were able to set up a half-court offense, Feehan struggled to find high-percentage shots.
The Vineyard guards were instrumental in the defensive attack. Seniors Jordan Tate and co-captain Nick Bond, along with junior Ricardo Andrade, used their speed and quick hands to harass the Shamrocks. Again, Feehan’s lack of a big man hampered their efforts at every turn.
Meanwhile, the hosts’ offense was clicking. When they weren’t capitalizing on backcourt steals, the Vineyarders were setting up a half-court offense, utilizing ball movement and good shot selection by every player.
“We want all our players to feel that they’re part of the offense,” said Coach Joyce. “If you have the open shot, take it. We also emphasize time-and-score. Sometime it makes sense to slow the offense, work the clock.” Implementing this game plan to a T, the Vineyarders closed out the half with a 21-point lead and were on their way to a satisfying win.
This was a true team victory. The outstanding play of the Vineyard backcourt matched the solid work of centers Thomas Weston and Luke DeBettencourt, who controlled the backboards and were important ball distributors on offense. Senior co-captain Dylan Araujo also played a key role in the Vineyarders success. A versatile, savvy player with excellent court awareness, Dylan is comfortable at virtually any position. Against Feehan, he started at small forward, rotated out to guard several times, and took over at center for a stretch. “He’s a strong, all-around player,” said his coach. “We use him as needed.”
Ricardo Andrade led the Vineyarders with 23 points, 14 of them in the first half. All told, nine Vineyard players scored in the game, a tribute to the ball-movement philosophy. Senior captain Jason Cooper led the Shamrocks with 14 points, while sophomore Paul Roche was solid throughout.
The win puts the Vineyarders at 8-2 overall and 3-0 in the EAC. MVRHS hosts Somerset Berkley, another league opponent, on Friday at 4:30.
The Martha’s Vineyard–Bishop Feehan rematch is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 3, at 5:30 pm in Attleboro.