“I thought we played, overall, pretty well,” said Twin Valley coach Chris Brown. “We didn’t start great in the first couple minutes, and then we didn’t end great.”
As Brown pointed out, both teams struggled to find baskets in the first quarter. Twin Valley was able to eke out a small 10-6 lead at the end of the quarter.
In the second quarter, the Wildcats ratcheted up their pressure defense, creating Black River turnovers and scoring easy baskets after steals. Freshman Izaak Park had a theft at mid-court, and fed his brother Logan for an easy layup. Junior point guard Dylan Howe made a nice pass to sophomore Jack McHale for another score. McHale notched another layup, taking a nifty pass from Hayden Reed for the two.
The Wildcats outscored the Presidents by nine in the quarter, and took a 28-15 lead into the intermission. Twin Valley carried their defensive intensity into the third quarter, and a 10-0 run stretched the lead out to 20 points midway through the period.
But Black River’s Drew Schoenberger and Jonathan Peters got hot from behind the three-point line, and the Presidents finished the period with a 12-0 run of their own. That cut the lead to 38-30 at the break.
‘In many ways, that was a natural reaction,” said Brown of the Wildcats’ letdown at the end of the third. “We thought we had it in the bag. Our defensive intensity was really good for the most part, especially the middle 70% of the game.”
Twin Valley was able to regroup at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Izaak Park dropped in a three-point shot, and then added a layup on a nice dish from McHale. That pushed the lead back to 13. Black River countered with a couple of threes and at one point cut the lead to six.
But Howe took the game over down the stretch. He repeatedly drove down the lane and seemed to get to the rim at will. He scored and was fouled on a number of drives, and hit 10 of 12 free throws in the waning minutes. That was too much for Black River, and nailed down the win for Twin Valley.
Brown was pleased with the win, and the team’s effort despite the defensive lapse and a number of turnovers during the final four minutes of the third quarter.
“We lost track a little bit late in the game,” said Brown. “They got 26 from those guys (Schoenberger and Peters) in the last 10 minutes. But we came back and pushed the lead out on them.”
Brown praised the efforts of Izaak Park (10 points), McHale(12 points), and especially Howe (16 points).
“Dylan got some good stuff on the break, and in the fourth quarter he took the game over. He probably could do more of that. He doesn’t turn the ball over a lot and he has a pretty good feel for what’s going on.”
But Brown would like to see the team shoot more consistently. “Our Achilles’ heel is we’re not good at shooting. We started one for 10 in the paint. It’s something that we harp on quite a bit, we practice those shots. For whatever reason it’s not in the cards right now.”
Twin Valley’s 61 points was a season high. The Wildcats (5-7) are back in action Friday in a return match with the Presidents at Green Mountain Union High School at 7 pm. On Saturday, they host Proctor at 3:30 pm. On Tuesday, Bellows Falls visits Twin Valley for a 7:30 pm game.
Despite the scoring ups and downs, fans can expect the Wildcats to go hard at their opponents.
“Our defensive intensity keeps us in the game,” said Brown. “They get after it.”