BOSTON -— Everything was different for Martha’s Vineyard one calendar year from its last visit to UMass-Boston.
The sleeping arrangements were different, as the Vineyarders spent the night in Boston off the island.
The team was different, only one returning starter and a number of seniors making their first varsity experiences. But more importantly the result was different, as Martha’s Vineyard will return to the Garden for the first time since 1977 after a 77-71 victory over top-seeded Wareham (22-2) yesterday at the Clark Athletic Center.
Navardo Anderson scored 11 points, including several big buckets in transition in the closing moments of the game and Izak Browne paced the Vineyarders (18-5) with 17 points.
“Last year’s senior class and this year’s senior class were both pretty big and deep,” said Vineyarders head coach Michael Joyce. “I had a large number of juniors on JV that came up. Even though they are seniors they don’t have the experience of it. Some of them were here at the game (last year) and some of them were on the bench and I think a little bit of the awe was worn of and they could play.”
Anderson is one of those seniors who watched Darien Fernandez (23 points, more on him later) torch the Vineyarders and take away a trip to the Garden off the court. The 6-foot-2 forward made sure to change the fortunes of that. After playing a little tentative early in the game, Anderson loosened up with 10 points in the second half. He was extremely crucial in the final push for the Vineyarders with seven points down the stretch.
His putback on his own miss put his team up 71-69 with 2:30 left in the game, and after a scrambled possession by the Vikings, he took the ball the other way and flushed the convincing exclamation point to pull away at the end.
“He came into his own in that second half,” Joyce said of Anderson. “Once the play got flowing a little bit. He made those free throws in the fourth quarter which were huge for us. For him that was a big step.”
Anderson is new to the game of basketball and has only been playing organized hoops for three years, but he possess the length needed at the two or the three. Once he tapped into that in this game, the nerves shook off.
“I just got to the point where this game was getting too close, we can’t lose this lead,” said Anderson.
Staying in front of Fernandez for an entire game is easier said than done, and Joyce knew that. He switched form a usual man defense to a variation of zones, from the 1-3-1 to the 2-3, just to throw different looks at Fernandez.
The talented Fernandez was shadowed by the Vineyarders’s guards for most of the night and he was forced into some tough outside shots, some forced, for most of the first half. He was still able to post a game-high 23 points, but it took his 24 shots to do so.
“It’s pretty much impossible,” Joyce said of guarding Fernandez. “Typically we play man, full almost all the time and we knew that was an impossibility with him on the court. One guy can’t stay in front of him. Our goal was to have one guy pressure him outside and not give up the 3s, and just basidcally trade them off. The other guard would fill the spot and the next guy would try to slow him down for the layup.”
Added Fernandez: “They are longer and probably more athletic too. They are long, so they were in my passing lane.”
This ends the career of one of the more gifted scorer’s in the state during the past four years, and Kevin Brogioli wished he could have him for a few more.
“You don’t get players like Darien to come around too often in your career,” said Brogioli. “He’s a great a talent and he’s going to be missed for sure.”