As the flashbacks of Troy Aikman and Brett Favre crushing my boyhood dreams in multiple 1990s NFC championship games wear off, I once again realize that for a sports fan, the playoffs are never that far away.
While I sit and wait a few months for the Bruins to make another run for the cup, the Twin Valley Wildcats have been absolutely dominant, and playoff basketball is coming to the cramped gym on Beaver Street. While their winning streak of 32 games (soccer and basketball combined) has finally come to an end, the Twin Valley boys have reached a historic peak, casting any doubts about their basketball potential, and going past the cliché “why not us” attitude to the “catch us if you can” mentality. Individual efforts have made this team shine this year as “Swattin’ Sammy” Molner knocked down the school’s block record, with another year ahead of him to distance himself ala Hank Aaron.
Abraham Lincoln was the “Great Emancipator,” Ronald Reagan was the “Great Communicator,” and now Colin Lozito has etched his name into the history books as the “Great Facilitator,” becoming the school’s all-time assist leader. Dal Nesbitt also sits 51 points away from becoming Twin Valley’s latest 1,000-point scorer. But it is a team effort that is at the heart of the Wildcats winning ways, and it’s at the heart of the higher standard they set for themselves on that first morning in September. It was on display on the soccer field, and has carried over to the hardwood, and each of coach Chris Brown’s 12 players has been a contributor.
While the boys’ varsity teams have earned my praise on multiple occasions through this column, a new force has arisen in Twin Valley sports. Led by a group of all-in, championship-or-bust team, the girls’ Wildcat has not so quietly taken the winter sports season by storm, playing tough, smothering defense, and using a great group of scorers, all with the potential to score double digits on any given night. On Tuesday night, three players had double-doubles, and after winning seven in a row, these girls are hitting their stride with perfect timing. It has been an interesting duality for the seniors especially. They knew this group was capable of such success, but have never known that sweet feeling. But here they are, with 13 wins, the same as the number of losses they suffered last year, ready to claim the Marble Valley League Championship, and host a playoff game. Just like their male counterparts, the Wildcats play with a mentality that is cohesive, and they just plain flat-out like playing the game together. This group has provided coach Buddy Hayford the luxury of combinations this year, as when one player has a bad night shooting, the others pick up the slack. As senior rebounding aficionado Hannah Swanson put it, “There isn’t a star on this team, we all work together and that’s it.”
The boys will have a chance to host two playoff games at TVHS as well this winter. The first loss of the season, the monkey off their back if you will, was an important step this week.
While I know these guys would rather never lose (and why not), there is such a thing as a good loss for the purpose of reflection.
So get ready, folks, Jacko will be leading the charge from the front row, because playoff basketball is coming to Wilmington.