On Sunday, February 12, the eighth grade children’s basketball team from Martha’s Vineyard faced Barnstable for the Cape Cod Championship. With a condensed 57-48 win 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, as seventh graders, the Light won the championship over Wareham, 42-32. They went on to become the runner-up in the state tournament, being two seconds away from winning the final.
But there is 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, and they’ve kept the same core group of players along the way. His son Jacoby Light, as well as Leo Napier, Fletcher Zak, Jackson Munson, and Conor Beeson have been with the team for six years now, helping them create some of the best harmonies the Cape League has to offer.
But when they were 8 and 9 years old, the team was playing in the fifth division, in and out. Each year their skills and chemistry improved more and more, and they would add important pieces to their roster, which ultimately led to last year’s breakout season.
Going 10-1 in the regular season, the 2021-22 seventh grade travel ball team rocked 14 straight Ws to win the Cape Cod Playoffs, the regional state qualifying tournament, and finally finish second overall in all of Massachusetts. “At first, we didn’t expect to do it so well,” said Coach Light. “But now we know we belong there.”
The 2022-23 Grade 8 side made their season this year, riding 13 straight wins, before losing the final at home to Barnstaple. 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 style of play 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, with a lackluster performance in the fourth quarter to seal the deal in a back-and-forth game. With six minutes left and with a one-point lead, Martha’s Vineyard took an 11-3 lead, with 6’5″ Landon Lépine making buckets through contact, and Light and Napier hitting some big threes. Coach Light stated, “This team can handle the pressure. …they’ve been there before.”
Moving forward, the Vineyarders will return to the regional tournament in March, to try and earn a spot in the state tournament. According to Coach Light, the best of the best come to the states, but rivalry with these teams is nothing new for the eighth grade Martha’s Vineyard team. Even though there are only 13 kids in the tryout, and 13 kids play for the team, Light knows they can beat the larger “Small Town Subdivision” schools, which have programs that are three times the size of Martha’s Vineyard. “The sky’s the limit for this team.”