The game began sloppy and out of sync for the Wildcats: their shooting was cold and four straight missed free throws left them with a goose egg in the scoring column, as well as an eight-point deficit with 2:53 to go. As has been the case in previous games, coach Chris Brown inserted his 6’ 3” sophomore DJ Lazelle into the game to draw attention away from his shooters. The plan once again worked as Twin Valley began to find a rhythm, and Dal Nesbitt found the net on three-pointers from either side of the three-point line. Sam Molner would score four points within the last 10 seconds of the first quarter to tie the game at 12.
Conner Gallipo came out and nailed a three-pointer to begin the second quarter scoring and Nesbitt immediately answered, setting the stage for the back-and-forth intensity of the next three quarters. Lozito and Gallipo were all over each other as Gallipo tried to use his size advantage to get looks in the paint, while Lozito pestered him on the outside. Gallipo would hit a three-pointer at the first-half buzzer to keep the game a one-point decision at 23-22.
Twin Valley once again had a staunch defensive game using full-court press defense to force turnovers while Eli Park, Cade Nesbitt, and Molner led the struggle in the paint. Nesbitt recorded five defensive rebounds and four blocks and said it was tough going trying to figure out this division II Otter Valley team. “We didn’t know anything about them,” said Cade Nesbitt. “After the first half we knew more about them, and we came out of the locker room strong.”
Twin Valley quietly gained momentum in the third quarter, but the turnovers continued to fly on both sides. Otter Valley played fast and it played into the Wildcats’ game plan as fast-break points off of defensive rebounds and a speedy offense caught the Otters out of position. A layup from Lozito put his squad up by nine at 36-27, but Kai Norwood completed a three-point play and John Winslow knocked down a free throw and at the end of three the Wildcats were up by only five.
It was all high drama in the fourth quarter as shots continued to look like bricks and rebounds were the name of the game. The ‘Cats were able to maintain a six point lead until 3:30 into the quarter when Gallipo cut the lead to one point, 43-42. Lazelle and Molner had some big buckets under the rim, but Gallipo hit a huge three-pointer to tie the game for the first time since the second quarter at 47, followed by a two-point shot to answer a Lazelle layup for a 49-all tie. Dal Nesbitt, as he has done all season, he found space beyond the arc and nailed a tie-breaking three-pointer with 1:30 to go off a great dish from Lozito. Five free throws later the Wildcats had the win.
“As the season progresses toward the post-season, games like last night will benefit us,” said coach Chris Brown. “Close games against tough competition when every posession matters.”
Nesbitt’s shot was huge, and just what his team needed with the game on the line. “You have to keep with it,” said Nesbitt “That was not our best game. We didn’t shoot the ball well and our intensity wasn’t up, but to be able to pull it out in the end there was great. I got an open look and thankfully I was able to hit that shot.”
Cade Nesbitt said the victory was great but the experience of playing a tough team was better. “This was the first close game we’ve had in a while,” said Cade Nesbitt. “We’ve been winning by 15 and 20 points in our other games so it was good for us to get a chance to play a really good team.”
On a night when the Wildcats finished with only 37% shooting, Lazelle finished with 10 points and 12 rebounds off the bench while Molner had 11 points and six rebounds. Dal Nesbitt finished with 22 points while Lozito had 10 points, six assists, and six steals.
TV 63 West Rutland 49
Twin Valley racked up its 10th victory of the season with a double-digit win, despite a poor night of shooting. Shooting guard Dal Nesbitt took a back seat in the scoring column, recording his lowest scoring game of the year, hitting only two of 19 from the field, and missing all seven two-pointers he took.
But Nesbitt’s teammates were there to back him up as DJ Lazelle and Sam Molner each recorded a double-double and point guard Colin Lozito once again scored double-digit points with 18 on the day. Molner and Lazelle recorded a combined 29 boards for the Wildcats while scoring 16 and 10 points respectively. Lazelle has made his mark as a bench scorer this season with only two games with less then a 50% field goal percentage.
The game started off back and forth, and with top scorer Jordan Pease missing, West Rutland’s Joey Callahan picked up the slack, scoring 14 points in the first half. Twin Valley got off to a 14-12 start at the end of the first quarter, and while the Wildcats would outscore the Golden Horde in each quarter, the game was never out of reach. The Wildcats’ biggest lead came in the third quarter, as they jumped out to a 14-point lead before the Horde roared back to bring the deficit to six. Cade Nesbitt shut down Callahan in the second half, allowing him only two points, while a good mix of man defense and a well-oiled half-court press kept Horde from taking over. Callahan had a game-high 16 for the Golden Horde.
In the fourth, Eli Park, Molner, and Lazelle did work in the paint, collecting defensive rebounds to allow few second chances. The Wildcats recorded an efficient seven-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio.
Coach Chris Brown said his boys have some big matchups coming and need to polish their game before playing Proctor, Rivendell, and West Rutland again. “ It’s a good sign when your leading scorer has a drought and you still come out on top,” said Brown. “Over the next month we can’t just win, we want to do it the right way. So even more then ever, we need to solidify our daily habits. We can’t have missed assignments and missed box-outs, so when we play the best teams, we’re playing our best basketball.”
Twin Valley begins a five-game homestretch Friday night against Proctor at 7, followed by a big matchup against undefeated Rivendell, Saturday at 3:30 pm.