MSJ 56 TV 31
Competing for the Green Mountain Tournament championship Friday night, the Wildcats were dealt their first loss of the season, after losing their grip on the Mount St. Joseph Academy Green Wave in the second quarter. Sammy Cunningham-Darrah and Colton Butler helped Twin Valley jump out to a 12-11 lead in the first quarter behind a combined nine points. But Twin Valley’s Achilles’ heel held them back, as shots under the basket, and off offensive rebounds, could not find the basket. According to Coach Buddy Hayford, putting in those shots could have put his team in the lead by double digits easily, and provided a confidence boost to carry his girls.
In the second quarter, the ‘Cats still kept the game within reach, but allowed a whopping 20 points while scoring only nine. With the game still within reach going into the half, the wheels fell off, the tank ran out of gas, and the motor fell out in the third quarter as MSJ pummeled the Wildcats with a 19-3 run. The Wildcats simply had no answer for a Green Wave team that forced turnovers and seemed to snag every rebound in the quarter. Sally Hogan lit up the paint for MSJ, scoring six of her 12 in the third.
The Wildcats would outscore the Green Wave in the fourth, 7-6, but the damage was done and Twin Valley would fall 56-31. There were good things to take from the defeat, however, as Cunningham-Darrah scored a career-high 13 points, and Twin Valley out-rebounded the Green Wave overall 28-23. But between the lack of points from within five feet and 24 turnovers on the night, the Wildcats couldn’t find a solid line of efficiency. Along with Hogan, Megan Eaton scored 13 points to lead MSJ. Colton Butler had 10 for the Wildcats while Savannah Nesbitt added six.
West Rutland 55 Twin Valley 25
While the final score shows a 30-point blowout, the Wildcats kept their match-up with the Golden Horde close for three quarters, against arguably the most talented foe they will face all season.
Twin Valley got out to a short-lived lead early in the first quarter, and both teams played an aggressive full-court defense to size up on speed and create early turnovers. Unfortunately for the ‘Cats, turnovers began to pile up early as the passing game looked a touch out of sync. The Wildcats were able to move the ball well but Morgan and Taylor Raiche made it tough for the Wildcats to move the ball into the paint, or collect offensive rebounds. On the flip side, the Golden Horde was able to collect offensive rebounds often, and move the ball with more ease to keep the ‘Cats running, and collect a 13-8 lead after the first quarter.
Twin Valley kept the game within reach in the second quarter, while only scoring five points. Using their swing-passing game, the Wildcats were only able to get a few open looks, none of which seemed to want to fall. Twin Valley point guard Savannah Nesbitt was harassed by Mikayla Dambrackas all night and along with Nesbitt, shooters Colton Butler and Sammy Cunningham-Darrah kept grinding hard but couldn’t get the shot they wanted. Butler was able to score five straight points in the quarter to keep it close at the half 21-13.
The Wildcats would pull within five points of the Golden Horde twice in the third on three-pointers from Cunningham-Darrah and Nesbitt, but a 6-2 run at the end of the third put the Horde up 30-21 after three. The last quarter was not as kind to Twin Valley who, with such a small roster, finally looked worn out. West Rutland gave the ‘Cats a pounding in the fourth quarter as penalty calls stacked up and fast break after fast break provided easy scores. A 24-4 run by the Horde to end the game sent Twin Valley to its second straight loss, 55-25. Butler ended the game with 10 points while Cunningham-Darrah had six. Taylor Raiche led the Golden Horde with 12.
Coach Buddy Hayford said that while the short game is lacking, there are certainly points in the Wildcats’ game that he is proud of. “You take away the fourth quarter, and I saw a lot of improvement in our defense,” said Hayford. “ We could have beat any other team on the schedule with that defense, but not West Rutland, they’re too polished. I think one thing I take from it, and I hope they did too, is that they play hard to the final horn. They’re competitive, they have desire, and heart, and you can’t fault the effort. We just need to be a little sharper on offense and with turnovers, easy shots, and free throws. We have the potential to be a pretty decent team. It’s yet to be seen, they need to do it on the court.”