ATTLEBORO, Mass. –- Behind a game-high 18 points from Deshawn James, Martha’s Vineyard opened Eastern Athletic Conference play with a 52-47 road victory over No. 15 Bishop Feehan on Saturday afternoon. The result gave the two teams identical 5-1 records on the season.
Feehan held a 13-12 lead after a back-and-forth first quarter with sophomore guard Mike Nelson leading the way with seven of his team-high 17 points. The Shamrocks seemed to be building momentum in the second when Nelson’s corner three-pointer made it 22-18. But, Feehan would only manage one more point before halftime.
Even with star guard Navardo Anderson limited by three first half fouls, the Vineyard would go on a 9-1 run and take a 27-23 lead at halftime. Head coach Mike Joyce labeled the run “the turning point” for his team and he was thrilled to have other players contribute with Anderson on the bench.
“I feel like our second quarter energy really got ramped up a little bit,” explained Joyce. “In the last four minutes of the second quarter, I think we really buckled down and I thought we owned the glass during that time and guys just finished shots.”
He added, “Other guys stepped right in and filled the spots. I thought our bigs inside did a great job...just keeping them from getting loose.”
James was the star in the first half with 10 points, and he consistently showed the ability to get past his defender and into the lane. That continued in the third quarter when he broke a 27-27 tie with a jumper and then a floater that he banked in. After a free throw, James got into the paint again to feed forward Tim Roberts for a lay-up.
“They were able to get out in transition a few times and take advantage of a few sloppy possessions we had and turn them into quick points,” said Freeman about the Vineyard’s offensive attack. “They’re just so athletic that you can’t give them open floor opportunities like that.”
The Vineyard led by nine after three quarters and extended the lead to as many as 13 in the fourth. Feehan tried to stay close with three’s by Nelson, David Carchedi and a pair from Frank Oftring coupled with poor free throw shooting by the Vineyard (7-for-18 in the game, 3-for-10 in the fourth). But, the final deficit was as close as Feehan managed to get in the fourth.
The visitors held onto the lead thanks James and Anderson being able to break the press and to get baskets in transition. Anderson put an exclamation point on the victory with a highlight-reel, two-hand dunk over Nicholas Botelho in the final minutes.
Role Players Come Through for Vineyard: While James and Anderson get most of the plaudits for the Vineyard, it was the contributions of role players like Malik Johnson (seven points), Alex Gordon-Beck (six points, six rebounds), and Roberts (11 points, 11 rebounds) that one Feehan coach called the reason for the victory.
Joyce asserted, “You can focus on Deshawn and Navardo and slow them down...but then Timmy started to get inside and just taking care of business and then Alex getting putbacks and the duck downs. Alex and Timmy were the difference in the middle.”
Freeman was disappointed that the Vineyard role players were continually making plays on the glass, in transition, and with pressure defense. He argued that the Vineyard won all the “hustle plays.”
He remarked, “Anderson and James are the headliners, but a kid like Roberts goes in there and gets tips and rebounds and gets putbacks and really battles out there and a kid like Beck…who seems to be in the right spot at the right time. That led to a lot of frustration on our part.”
All of Roberts’ 11 points came either in the paint or at the free throw line. Gordon-Beck added several steals and blocks to his work on the boards and a big finish plus the foul that ended the third quarter. The Vineyard also got clutch minutes from Ben Poole, who guarded Nelson for large stretches and had a big three-point play during the Vineyard’s first half run.
Vineyard Gets Early Lead in EAC: “Offensively, we really sputtered and didn’t make a good percentage of our outside shots,” noted Freeman about his team’s performance on Saturday. “It’s tough to play catch-up all the time against a team like that.”
He continued, “I don’t know what it is recently, but the Vineyard really seems to have our number. So, we’re going to have to go back to the drawing board...and hopefully we can steal one down on the island.”
The loss was Feehan’s first of the season, but it gives the Vineyard an early advantage in the conference. It was an advantage that the Vineyard coaches and players were more than happy to take, especially in the wake of the recent weather conditions that played havoc with the team’s practice schedule.
“We had a half-day on Thursday, so no practice, and no school yesterday,” said Joyce about preparing for the rivalry game. “We tried to put a few things in and I don’t think they remembered one of them, but they just played with effort. We have some athletic kids and when they play with energy, it’s hard to match.”