TV 52 Black River 28
The Wildcats had their way with the Black River Presidents Thursday night, jumping out to a bid lead over their overmatched opponents. Coach Buddy Hayford said that while the game was a blowout, the Presidents were able to challenge Twin Valley with zone defense, while Norwegian foreign exchange student Elisa Eliason provided the only offensive spark for Black River.
The Wildcats set the tone early, going up in the first quarter 15-5, all on three-pointers. Sammy Cunningham-Darrah, Colton Butler, Savannah Nesbitt, and Kirra Courchesne all contributed to that effort as the Wildcats decidedly pulled away. The Wildcats outscored the Presidents 12-3 in the second quarter by creating offense off of turnovers. Nesbitt, working from the point, was able to penetrate the Presidents’ zone for a layup or to create a dish-out opportunity, and the Wildcats continued to play the rock-solid defense that has led them to a six-game winning streak.
Twenty-one of the Wildcats points came from three-point land in the first half, while in the second half they were able to work the ball into the paint more as Hannah Swanson and Courchesne worked under the basket. Cunningham-Darrah, Butler, and Nesbitt were all able to work in layups as well, and outscore the Presidents 18-10 in the third.
Courchesne and Swanson combined for nine points in the fourth quarter to help the ‘Cats cruise to their 12th victory of the season.
Eliason led the Presidents with 11 points, while Nesbitt had 14 points and six assists for the Wildcats. Cunningham-Darrah finished with 11, and Courchesne had 10 points and six rebounds.
“ I’m really impressed,” said Hayford. “It’s such a turnaround from last year, and we have to keep going right now because we’re in the driver’s seat to win the Marble Valley League, and our last four games are against league teams. We’ll continue having fun, playing hard, defending and rebounding, but we have to make the easy shots and free throws. We’re on track, we just have to stay focused and take it one possession and one game at a time.”
TV 53 Bellows Falls 43
While the score indicates a closer game on paper, the Wildcats had no trouble putting away the Bellows Falls Terriers Tuesday night, in what was one of their more physical matches of the year, filled with jump balls and dives to the floor for loose balls. Colton Butler, Hannah Swanson, and Savannah Nesbitt all recorded double-doubles and Twin Valley put up a team-high 48 rebounds en route to their 13th win of the year
Neither team would score in the first two minutes of play, but Nesbitt would outscore the Terriers’ Stephanie Parsons and Chelsea Wilder nine to five in the next six minutes, while Butler and Teya Johnson knocked down three-pointers. Nesbitt’s nine points totaled half of her night’s work, helping the Wildcats to get ahead and stay ahead. Shooting guard Sammy Cunningham-Darrah had her night derailed early with three first-quarter fouls, but her teammates would find a way to spread the scoring around the arc, and use offensive rebounds to create easy points. Bench play was a key role, too, as Jessica Fox, Natalie Herrick, Christina Moore, and Johnson would be rotated in early and often. Wilder would jack up two more three-pointers, which spun their way out of the rim on both occasions and failed to keep Bellows Falls in the game. Wilder would also find little help as she tried to work the rock to her teammates.
Hannah Swanson led the Wildcats in the second quarter, scoring six of her 12 points, while Nesbitt got some time to catch her breath. Twin Valley’s offense would hit a brief stall, but their defense has been where they’ve hung their hat this year, allowing no inside play by the Terriers with their smothering 1-3-1 defensive zone. With a 29-13 lead at the half, the ‘Cats looked primed to cruise to victory, and a big third quarter would keep the lead at a manageable 16 points.
The Terriers began to rally in the fourth as the Wildcats began to turn the ball over. With a comfortable lead beginning to dwindle, Butler knocked down two big three-pointers to match two by Wilder that brought her team closer to a single-digit game. But the Terriers got no closer and Twin Valley closed out the game with a 13-point fourth-quarter effort and a 10-point win.
The Wildcats are peaking at the right time, and along the way are beginning to achieve the goals they have set for themselves. “Our goal was to be 12-4,” said Swanson. “To reach that, I’ve never felt this way before. We want to keep it up and now the goal is 16-4, and to keep this up we have to keep playing with passion and heart and just make better passes. Once we get that down I think we can reach our goal.”
Swanson ended the night with 12 points and 13 rebounds, while Nesbitt added 10 rebounds and five steals to her 18 points. Butler had 11 points and 12 rebounds.
“They’re a great team, they work hard, they work together, and they have fun,” said Hayford. “Those are the three winning ingredients no matter what level you play at.”
The Wildcats host Green Mountain tonight at 7.