An 18-point lead was flipped on its head Saturday as the Division 3 South final between Wareham and Martha’s Vineyard ended as a barnburner.
The Vikings sprinted out to a 21-3 lead half way through the first quarter only to see Martha’s Vineyard battle to within three points with three minutes left in the game.
Leading 59-56, Wareham’s Darien Fernandez converted a 3-point play to give the Vikings some cushion.
After the teams traded baskets, the Vineyarders were forced to foul and Wareham shut the door on the comeback, hitting 6-of-11 free throws en route to a 70-65 victory.
“Hopefully [a 21-3 start] is a knockout punch,” said Wareham coach Kevin Bregoli. “But we just stunned them and they came back and matched us the rest of the way. The game got close a few times, but we were able to answer [Martha’s Vineyard’s] runs.”
The Vikings will play Danvers in the Division 3 Eastern Mass. final on Monday at the TD Garden.
“That game was hard work,” Fernandez said. “When we got that lead we sort of stopped playing and they made some runs.”
Fernandez did everything in his power to lift the Vikings to victory. The junior guard scored 22 points, grabbed eight rebounds, dished out eight assists and had seven steals.
“When push comes to shove, I tell Darien to make something happen and he has a knack for doing just that,” Bregoli said. “He is a competitor.”
Said Martha’s Vineyard coach Michael Joyce, “Fernandez’s steals and rebounds were a huge part of their victory because they gave them second chances.”
After getting out to the early lead, the Wareham offense hit a doldrum. Martha’s Vineyard seized the opportunity to get back in the game, going on a 15-2 run and cutting the deficit to 23-18 early in the second quarter.
The spark that lit the Vineyarders’ comeback was the insertion of 6-foot-5 senior Charlie Everett into the game. Everett provided dominant post offense and defense, finishing the game with 20 points and 10 rebounds.
“Charlie played out of his mind,” said Martha’s Vineyard coach Michael Joyce. “He is a leader and was really aggressive taking the ball to the hoop. He brought energy and tried to get everyone playing on his level.”
Wareham got its lead back into double digits at times in the second quarter but was never able to pull away, holding a 41-32 lead at the half.
The Vineyarders started the third quarter with a 14-7 run that cut Wareham’s lead to just two points, 48-46. But Wareham scored two quick buckets to make it a two-possession game going into the fourth.
Both teams played to a stalemate in the fourth quarter. Whenever Martha’s Vineyard inched closer, Wareham always had a response.
“In the end, they played all 32 minutes and we took the first four off,” Joyce said.
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