In her last game playing in Twin Valley’s gymnasium, Abbi Molner got the game rolling with two quick points, but the Wildcats fell behind gradually in the first half, and were unable to recover. Twin Valley out-rebounded the Eagles 47-37, but their first series of possessions saw little rebounding inside, and second-chance points allowed Arlington to continue shooting. Twin Valley was able to keep their deficit to a minimum at the end of one as Arlington had trouble converting on those chances. Molly Elwell scored six of her team-high 15 points in the first to put Arlington in the driver’s seat, and a 5-0 run at the end of the quarter allowed the Eagles a 13-8 cushion.
Twin Valley’s offense was stifled by Arlington’s all-out full-court press straight out of the second-quarter starting gate, which caused too many Wildcat turnovers. Twin Valley would score first on a three-point play from Colton Butler, but another 5-0 run put the Eagles up 18-11. Jordan Niles, who had an uncharacteristically bad night shooting, hit a free throw to make up Twin Valley’s only other point on the quarter. An NBA-deep three-pointer by Jenna Lacoste at the halftime buzzer capped an eight-point run that gave the Eagles a 26-12 advantage.
Twin Valley began the third with a 13-6 run which included four points from Lexi Rienertson, who, along with Molner, played in her final home game as a Wildcat. A three-pointer by Abby Putnam in the corner put the Wildcats down by only seven, and Twin Valley seemed to be clawing back. But six straight from the Eagles put the game back out of reach where it would stay for the remainder of the half.
“You have to credit their (Arlington’s) in-your-face defense and their ability to shut down our shooters like Jordan Niles,” said Twin Valley coach Buddy Hayford “ We just couldn’t get big buckets when we needed them. My girls, for the energy they did expend, seemed tired. There were a lot of turnovers and that’s been our Achilles’ heel all year, and it’s basic things like making bad passes that have hurt us.” Hannah Swanson led Twin Valley with 10 points and 13 rebounds. The Wildcats finish the year with a record of 7-13 but regardless of the loss and a losing record, Hayford is proud of what his team was able to do this year. “In some ways it was a successful season. It exceeded my expectations with Savannah Nesbitt absent due to injury, but we were able to work other girls into the system and they learned a lot for the years to come.”
Hayford is especially proud of his seniors Rienertson, Molner, and timekeeper Whitney Murdock, who all graduate in May. “Lexi and Abbi were solid leaders in this group, and a lot of the credit goes to them that we had success. I think they left it all out there on the court. They were great competitors and we’ll miss them, and you wish you could have another year with players like them because they both came into their own and played some good basketball.”
Wildcats fall in first round
WINOOSKI-The Wildcats journeyed to Winooski to play a team that had beat them in the first round of Division IV playoffs last year, 52-38. Once again, the Spartans got the best of Twin Valley and advanced to round two with a 51-31 victory.
Twin Valley kept up with the fast-paced Spartans in the first half, as Winooski played a zone defense. The Wildcats have played better against zone defenses then man-to-man this season and went into the second quarter down 16-9.
The Wildcats kept their deficit to seven going into the half 26-19. Abbi Molner, playing in what would be her last high school basketball game, led Twin Valley throughout the first, scoring all nine of her points in the first two quarters. Twin Valley committed only five turnovers in the first half as well, providing an extra ounce of confidence going into the locker room.
Twin Valley coach Buddy Hayford credited his guards with keeping the game close. Sammy Cunningham-Darrah and Colton Butler kept Brianna Robare, Winooski’s all-time leading scorer for girls’ basketball, to just eight points, after putting up 35 in the last game of the season. Backup guards Jessica Fox and Abby Putnam, coming off the bench, kept the pressure level up on defense as well.
Ashley Antoniak led Winooski in the third quarter, scoring eight, as the Wildcats saw their close game gradually slip away. The Spartans switched to man-to-man defense, which stifled Twin Valley’s chances of creating effective scoring chances. Twin Valley was able to muster only seven points in the third quarter, while Winooski doubled their tally with 14.
“The third was our undoing,” said Hayford. “We began to commit turnovers in the third and Winooski slowly and methodically pulled away from us. It was a slow bleed.”
Hayford would call timeouts to try to stem the tide, but the Spartans once again allowed only seven points in the fourth quarter. With Robare a nonfactor, other Winooski girls were able to step up and have big nights. Fallon Perrault had 18 points (nine from beyond the arc) and nine rebounds, while Amanda Nattress had 11 points.
Molner led Twin Valley with her nine first-half points, while Butler and Hannah Swanson each had six points.
“You look at the final and it looks like we got killed, but it felt like it was closer than that,” said Hayford. “We had more wins than I anticipated this season. We could have won more and a few got away in the latter stages of games, but all things being equal, I was proud of the effort every night. Some nights are better than others, but I think they can walk away knowing they did the best they could, and I’m excited for next year.”