Wildcats headed to the Aud

After the clock hit 0.0, players and fans celebrated the Wildcats two-point win over Rivendell.Twin Valley's Jack McHale, 14, goes in for a layup between Rivendell's Zach Gould and Tanner Siemons. McHale led the Wildcats to a quarter-final round win over the Raptors.Colin McHale eyes a free throw during Twin Valley's win over Rivendell.  McHale's scrappy play helped lead the Wildcats to the victory.

WHITINGHAM- For the fourth time in the past six seasons, the Twin Valley boys' basketball team is headed to a state tournament semifinal round. The Wildcats earned their trip to the Barre Auditorium in dramatic fashion, coming from behind three times to defeat the feisty Rivendell Raptors 48-46 Friday evening.

Twin Valley's Jack McHale scored the first basket of the game on a driving layup. But Rivendell's Kyle Carter answered back with a three point shot. McHale made a free throw to tie the game, but Rivendell then rolled off the next nine points to take a 12-3 lead midway through the first quarter. The Wildcats were cold, missing a number of shots in the paint and from behind the three-point line. Izaak Park finally got hot for the Wildcats, ripping off six straight to slice into the lead. The Raptor's Zach Gould dropped in a bucket just before the buzzer to make the score 14-9 Rivendell after one.

In the second quarter, Rivendell began to exploit a weakness in the Wildcat's defense. They started pounding the ball in to their big center, Isaac Martel. He was able to work the back door for a number of baskets and free throws. Twin Valley center Dylan Howe picked up his third foul trying to block Martel's shot, and had to ride the bench for the rest of the quarter. Again, Rivendell worked out to a lead, going up 20-11. But Twin Valley didn't fold, and McHale had 11 points as part of a 13-3 run. Twin Valley led briefly, 24-23, before Carter dropped in a jump shot just before halftime to give Rivendell a 25-24 lead at the break.

“We had two turning points,” said Twin Valley coach Chris Brown. “It was 12-3, that game could have gone south really fast. We pulled it back enough, just to keep it close. And then, at 20-11, when Dylan picked up his third foul, it could have been disaster. But we fought back and took the lead.”

Brown said they made a few defensive changes at halftime to shut down the Raptors inside game. “We made some strategical adjustments. Forty-five (Martel) was killing us inside. So we clogged that up a little more, rotated our defense a little better, and it made all the difference. We made a conscious effort to take the middle away and give up the three.”

Twin Valley came out determined to take control of the game in the third quarter, and they succeeded. Fast-break baskets by Colin McHale and Owen Grinold fueled the Wildcats run. They built a 34-28 lead with three minutes left in the third. Then Rivendell showed their toughness, coming back to within two points, 36-34, with a minute left. But Park hit a big three in the last minute, and Twin Valley led 39-34 after three.

The two teams battled back and forth in the final quarter. Twin Valley was up 41-36, but Rivendell again refused to fold. They fought all the way back to take a 43-41 lead on Carter's three-pointer with three-and-a-half minutes left. But Park again hit a clutch three, with Rivendell's Luke Senn in his face, and the Wildcats regained the lead, 44-43. Colin McHale made four free throws in the final two minutes, and the Wildcats held on for the 48-46 win.

“We needed to be tough,” said Brown. “We pushed it out in the third, they clawed back. We could have folded there, when they took a one point lead. That could have been it. Izaak came down and hit that big step-back three. It was big.”

Brown said the win accomplished two of the team's goals on the season, which was to have two home playoff games and take a trip to the Aud for a semifinal game. It wasn't easy, but in the end, Twin Valley came out on top of one of the most thrilling games of the season. Fans in the packed house got their money's worth.

“They were the ll seed, we were the three seed,” said Jack McHale after the game. “CB told us it didn't matter. They came to play. It was a tough game. In the end we got the win, and that's all that matters.”

The Wildcats play the winner of tonight's West Rutland-Poultney game on Wednesday at 6:30 pm at the Barre Auditorium. The game can also be streamed live or on demand at www.nfhsnetwork.com.

The Deerfield Valley News

797 VT Route 100 North
Wilmington, VT 05363

Phone: 802-464-3388
Fax: 802-464-7255

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