TV 50 Green Mountain 36
The Twin Valley Wildcats are in the midst of the season of their lives, and they know it. As this team of friends reaches the end of their first winning season, individual players have been hitting their stride. Kirra Courchesne, arguably the team’s breakout player of the year, has been a 5’11” shining example. After knocking down her third straight three-pointer in an explosive 25-point quarter for Twin Valley, the sophomore forward streaked to the opposite end of the court. Usually one to sport an intense game face, Courchesne took a minute to crack a smile as a teammate gave her a passing low five.
But the efforts of the entire team made Courchesne’s 12 points and six rebounds seem par for the course statistics, as the entire team continues to contribute all they’ve got, and its seniors continue to play knowing these are the last games of their high school career.
To beat Green Mountain, the Wildcats had to get contributions from anywhere they could in the first half. The Chieftains seemed in no mood to let the Wildcats take control of the game, playing an effective 1-3-1 defensive zone. The ‘Cats didn’t find their A game in the first half, as open shots fell to the wayside all too often in the first quarter. Twin Valley found some separation after Savannah Nesbitt and Colton Butler each hit three pointers, but the Chieftains roared back with a 6-0 run fueled by five points from Leah Bodin.
With the game tied 11-11, Green Mountain would begin the second quarter by briefly controlling the boards, while Twin Valley missed multiple layup opportunities, and didn’t allow themselves to shake free. But Hannah Swanson led the ‘Cats with seven points in the second quarter, and brought them to a 22-19 lead going into the locker room.
Coming back onto the court, the Wildcats took over the game, outscoring the Chieftains 25-6, led by Courchesne’s big quarter, and huge contributions on the boards by both the girls in the paint, and the shorter guards on the weak sides. The ‘Cats would out-rebound the Chieftains 44-24 when all was said and done, and just like that, a three-point halftime lead blew up to 22.
Twin Valley was able to keep the double-digit lead and coast to victory, with Butler tying a career-high 14 points to lead the team. Swanson came close to her third double-double of the year with nine points and 12 rebounds, and Nesbitt filled up the stat sheet with 10 points, seven rebounds, six assists, and nine steals. Madi Huntley had 14 points to lead Green Mountain.
TV 39 L&G 23
Colton Butler ran the ball over half court and waited for the last three seconds to tick off the clock, and in a moment of joy, relief, and exaltation, she gave the ball a bounce into the air and embraced teammate Hannah Swanson. The wait was over, and the Wildcats became Marble Valley League champions for the first time in seven years. It was the culmination of years of struggle, potential, and chemistry finally peaking at the right time, and with the MVL championship out of the way, Swanson said her team’s work was far from over, with a trip to the Barre Auditorium for the state tournament still looming as their next obtainable challenge.
But after knocking off Leland & Gray Tuesday night, the ‘Cats took a moment to enjoy their present accomplishment. The seniors looked worn, but they didn’t stop smiling, because the title of “champion” is something they’ve chased for four years. “It just feels so good,” said Swanson. “I couldn’t have dreamed of doing so well in basketball and it’s just so good to have such great girls on such a great team.”
These girls brought their best defensive game to Townshend Tuesday night, creating 15 turnovers and winning the battle of the boards 36-18. The Wildcats committed a fair number of fouls, seven in the first 10 minutes, but this was a symptom of their aggressive first-half attack, which allowed 12 points.
Swanson, who is having a late-season renaissance, led her team into battle offensively, scoring eight of her team-high 11 in the first quarter, while Sammy Cunningham-Darrah knocked down a three-pointer.
In the second quarter, five Wildcats got on the board, including a three-bomb from Teya Johnson, and two big free throws from Christina Moore. Kirra Courchesne continued her late season surge as well, scoring a three-point play on a tough shot that could only go in on the junior’s birthday.
The Wildcats only allowed five points in the second quarter, and were able to take it easy in the second half, but didn’t, allowing only five and six points in the third and fourth quarters respectively. Floor general Savannah Nesbitt once again filled the stat sheet as only a point guard can, with six points, six rebounds, nine assists, and seven steals. Courchesne had seven points and six boards, while Butler added nine rebounds of her own. Jessica Stockwell led Leland & Gray with six points.
At 15-4, the Wildcats have one game left, Saturday, February 15 at 7:30, with a chance to sweep the MVL against Arlington. Coach Buddy Hayford said that a clean sweep would be a great feat for his squad. “This group wants to be 8-0 in the league, that was one of their goals in the preseason,” said Hayford. “It’s pretty satisfying for me as coach to see the hard work we all put in come to fruition. This is what we coach for and play for. We always want to win, and we want to win a championship. We’ve had some heartbreak over the last four or five years, and for them to have a winning record, I’m just so pleased with how they’ve done this season, and pleased especially for the seniors.”
Swanson, a senior, said that her late season surge must be a product of finally reaching her potential, but it is also a trait that she dedicates to the band of sisters with whom she hits the hardwood. But for her and her teammates, their work is far from over and they know it. “This is it for basketball for me, and I have to give it all I have every game,” said Swanson. “We want to get to the Aud, and we haven’t done that in quite a while either and I think its obtainable seeing how we’re playing as a team.”