Eighth grade travel team crowned champions of Cape Cod

Boys basketball players are now on a quest for a state title.

(In no particular order) Jacoby Light, Leo Napior, Drey Thomas, Gabe Murray, Gabrielle Bengston, Landon Lepine, Connor Beeson, Chandler Blau, Jackson Munson, Matt MacMillian, Aeneas Forrester, Lucas Landry, and Fletcher Zack celebrate back-to-back Cape Cod Youth Basketball League championships. — Jeremy Light

On Sunday, Feb. 12, the Martha’s Vineyard eighth grade boys’ travel basketball team faced Barnstable for the Cape Cod championship crown. With an intense 57-48 victory over their rivals, Coach Jeremy Light’s team officially won the Cape Cod Youth Basketball League for the second year in a row.

Last year, Light’s squad won the championship as seventh graders, over Wareham, 42-32. They went on to become runners-up in the state tournament, where they were two seconds away from winning the final.

But there’s so much more to their story.

Light, assistant principal at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, has been coaching this team since they were third graders, maintaining the same core group of players along the way. His son Jacoby Light, as well as Leo Napior, Fletcher Zack, Jackson Munson, and Connor Beeson have been with the team for six years now, which has helped them create some of the best chemistry the Cape league has to offer.

But back when they were 8 and 9 years old, the team was playing in the fifth grade league, getting creamed game in and game out. Every year though, their skills and chemistry improved more and more, and they would add important pieces to their roster, ultimately leading to their breakout season last year. 

Going 10-1 in the regular season, the 2021-22 seventh grade travel ball team rattled off 14 more Ws in a row to win the Cape Cod playoffs, the regional championship to qualify for states, and finally finish second overall in all of Massachusetts. “At first, we didn’t expect to do that well,” said Coach Light. “But now we know we belong there.”

Flash forward to this year, the 2022-23 eighth grade team kicked off their season with 13 straight wins, before losing their home finale to Barnstable. According to Coach Light, this rivalry has been brewing for months. “Their coach is also the AAU coach for a few of our players, so he knows their playstyles and what they’re good at,” Light stated. “It’s a nice little chess match.”

But Martha’s Vineyard got its revenge in the final two Sundays ago, with a lights-out performance in the fourth quarter to seal the deal in a back-and-forth game. With six minutes to go and a one-point lead, Martha’s Vineyard went on an 11-3 run, with 6’5” Landon Lepine making two buckets through contact, and Light and Napior hitting some big threes. “This team can handle pressure… they’ve been there before,” stated Coach Light.

Moving forward, the Vineyarders will return to the regional championships in March, to try to clinch a spot in the state tournament. According to Coach Light, the best of the best come to States, but competing with these teams is nothing new for Martha’s Vineyard’s eighth grade squad. Despite only having 13 kids try out, and 13 kids play for the team, Light knows they are capable of beating the larger ‘small-town division’ schools, who have programs three times the size of Martha’s Vineyard’s. “The sky’s the limit for this team.”