The Charter School girls and Edgartown boys basketball teams earned Island middle school championship honors on Monday night in contrasting styles. In the opener of the doubleheader at the high school, the Lady Chargers battled tooth and nail against the Tisbury Tigers before a raucous crowd on their way to a 34-27 win. In the nightcap, a bigger, more experienced Edgartown boys squad had a smoother and quieter time of it against a talented Blazer team that was missing three starters due to academic ineligibility. The Eagles scored the first 17 points, and rolled to a 52-19 win to repeat as champs.
The girls title game began at a furious clip and never let up. Both teams played scrappy, ball-hawking defense that resulted in turnovers and jump balls. Aggressive rebounding on both ends of the court added to the intensity of the game. Also intense was the attention paid to Tiger shooting guard Braedyn Clark by the Charter defense. Braedyn, who could and did score from almost anywhere, carried the Tiger offense, but had to work hard for every shot.
For the Chargers, quick cuts, ball movement, and inside scoring sparked the offense. Constantly on the move, players found open shots, many of which ended up as offensive rebounds in the hands of Charger center Josie Chivers. The tall forward’s 18 first-half points lifted her team to a 26-16 lead at the break.
Although the scoring dropped off in the second half, the pace of the game did not. It was run, pass, shoot, rebound, scramble, all the way. And if there was ever a case of basketball fans acting as a mythical “sixth man” to inspire their team to greater heights, this was it. With their school vying for a first-ever Island championship, the Charter supporters exhorted their team throughout the fray with clapping, whistling, cheering and sign-waving. It was loud.
When the horn sounded on this stirring 34-27 win, there was (old-time Red Sox fans take note) “pandemonium” on the floor. It was the Lady Tigers’ moment in the sun.
When asked what her favorite part of the victory was, Charger captain Maria Andrade, a force throughout the game, answered simply, “Teamwork. It’s something our school teaches us in everything we do.”
Charter Coach Asil Cash concurred. “We believe that togetherness is the way to achieve,” he said. “In basketball, things most likely are not going to go as planned. How we respond in that moment as a team will define us as a team. This team bought into that concept.”
Josie Chivers led the winners with 21 points. Ella Luening scored seven points, and Maria Andrade had six. Braedyn Clark had a game-high 22, Ella Clarke chipped in four, and Alana Nevin added two for a skillful and determined Tisbury team that came up a bit short in this memorable contest.
Circumstances prevented the boys game from matching the fervor of the opener. Oak Bluffs, playing without three of its starters, was unable to match the Eagles’ prowess and roster depth.
Edgartown took control early in the game. Using their height and strength to advantage, they ran a patient, ball-control offense that resulted in open shots and offensive rebounds. This is a veteran, athletic squad that makes few mistakes and excels in all aspects of the game. Particularly effective in the early going were seventh grade center Marcos Rodrigues and eighth grade forward Gabe Arritt. The two had 11 and 10 points respectively as the Eagles took a 27-11 lead at the half.
The Blazers, although determined and well-prepared, were unable to establish a fluid offense or match the Eagles on the boards. It wasn’t for lack of effort, as they moved the ball as well as they could against the taller Eagles in search of open shots. Point guard Lucas Reis led the team with six first-half points.
The eventual 52-19 final score reflected the gap between the two teams on this particular night. For Edgartown, the win capped an impressive 10-0 season; their Island championship was much deserved. Oak Bluffs finished with a 6-4 record in a season that saw the team’s younger players get some valuable big-game experience.
Eagles Coach Nelson Oliver was pleased with his team’s overall execution. “Our focus on good defense and pushing the ball up the court are what led to our team’s success,” he said.
Jayden Coyle and Gabe Arritt led the scoring for Edgartown with 14 points each; Marcos Rodrigues added 13. Lucas Reis had eight for the Blazers.
Road to the championships
A wild week of playoffs led up to Monday’s championships — games that propelled the Island Charter School girls to their first final appearance, along with the Oak Bluffs boys who pulled a stunning upset over Tisbury to reach the finals.
The defending boys champs Edgartown Eagles, with a perfect 9-0 season, tapped off against the (6-3) Oak Bluffs Blazers boys on Monday at 7 pm at the Sancy Pachico Gym at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, following the Charter School against Tisbury at 6 pm. The Eagles advanced with a tidy 39-28 win, led by Jayden Coyle’s 22 points, over West Tisbury.
The Charter School girls earned their first championship try with a grinding 24-13 win over West Tisbury on Thursday. “This is only our third season. The kids are over the moon excited,“ Maria Andrade’s mother, Joanne Andrade, said on Sunday. Their opponent, the lady Tisbury Tigers (7-1), cruised to the championship round with a 41-22 win over Edgartown on Thursday.
But the upset of the season belonged to to the Oak Bluffs boys. The Blazers entered the semifinal game against Tisbury missing three suspended starters, who had run afoul of school academic rules.
“I’ve been [coaching middle school hoops] for 19 years and I’ve never seen anything like it,” Blazer Coach Alex McCloskey said of his team’s 39-35 victory over Tisbury last week. “We only had seven kids; essentially a bunch of sixth and seventh graders came together in a playoff game and hung in for the win,” he said.
Mr. McCloskey had the steadying influence of seventh-grader Ryan Koster, but lone eighth-grader Lucas Reis went off with a 16-point, 12-rebound, 12-steal effort to lead the way, backed by classmates Nick Rego and Luke Yuhas.
“Honestly, I think the kids were the only ones who thought we would win, but they were right,” he said. The Blazers led the nailbiter 21-19 at halftime, and by two points late in the game before Mr. Reis hit three foul shots and had a last-second steal to seal the deal.