Twin Valley spread the scoring around, led by brother tandem Cade and Dal Nesbitt with 10 and 14 points respectively. Sam Molner turned in a good performance from the forward and center positions as well, scoring seven and grabbing six boards. This was the third game of the season in which the Wildcats have won by three points or fewer, but the ability to finish has kept their record squeaky clean.
Although the Wildcats beat Proctor by 14 early in the season, they faced a tough, defensive team beginning to rise in the standings, and on Friday night, the Phantoms came to play. Proctor jumped in front 26-20 in the first half by playing great defense against the typically fast Wildcat attack. Slowing down Twin Valley’s offense and creating problems for the ‘Cats in transition seemed to work for the Phantoms, as the pace of the game ground to a near halt in the first half.
The Wildcats were not ready to let their upstate rivals run away with the game. The Wildcats came out of the locker room ready to play in the second half, starting the third quarter on a 12-2 run to take back the lead. Twin Valley’s defense stepped up its game as well, allowing only 12 second-half points, just enough to provide some wiggle room for their offense to win by a three-point margin.
Perhaps the biggest storyline from Friday evening’s game was the play of point guard Colin Lozito who, along with scoring eight points on three-of-eight shooting, added three assists to his stat sheet. While three assists may seem like a below-average total, those dimes propelled Lozito to a place in school history. As of Friday night, Lozito had recorded 443 assists in his career, passing 2010 graduate Scott Hayford as the all-time assist leader in team history. With only a few games left, Lozito has the chance to put himself over the 500 mark, making him the only Wildcat in history to do so.
“I give credit to everyone else,” said Lozito, in reference to his record-breaking career. “With the boys we have, they make it happen, I just give them the ball. We’ve grown up together and we play well together from the first player on the court to the end on the bench, we all work hard and it shows.”
Coach Chris Brown said that the close win over Proctor was a necessary wake-up call for his team as they reach the final stretch of the season. “We beat them by 14 early in the season, but they are a much improved team, and playing them that close the second time around with an undefeated record was a needed ego check for us.”
TV 57 Rivendell 54
An absolute shootout, roller coaster game transpired Saturday afternoon as the Division III Rivendell Raptors came to town to face the Wildcats in a battle of the undefeated. The first of a varsity doubleheader, high drama was the name of the game throughout, as lead changes were about as common as rebounds for 32 straight minutes. It was clear from the tip, that both teams were prepared to play fast, and sure enough, the match turned into a horse race.
Sniper Dal Nesbitt knocked down 20 points, and junior center Sam Molner had a monster game for the Wildcats with a double-double, as they defeated the Raptors 57-54. But it was the contributions by every player who stepped on the court that made the victory possible, as late game heroics seemed to come through on every play of the last quarter.
The first half was about as up and down a game as one could expect. Nesbitt and Molner came out of the gate hot, scoring seven of the Wildcat’s first nine points, while their defense shut out the Raptors for the first three minutes of the game. Rivendell was unable to hit easy shots from under the basket in their first few possessions, but a shot from Josh Marshall finally fell, and the Raptors used seven more points from Marshall to climb back into the game and end the first quarter down by two, 13-11. Molner had six points on the quarter.
The Raptors played a physical game and, as Chris Brown tried to inject some height under the rim with DJ Lazelle, the Raptors responded with 6’5” Shamus Peyton, whom the Wildcats would have trouble with on offense. After Nesbitt put his team up 19-17 with a three-pointer, Brown inserted Skyler Boyd into the lineup, and Boyd had a positive impact in a pressure situation with an immediate bucket and big defensive rebound. But no matter who Brown put into the game, the Wildcats could not stop the Raptors from taking the lead at the half 26-21.
“Coach told us we needed to come out with fire, and make the first run,” said Molner. “Otherwise they would have put the game out of reach.”
That’s just what the Wildcats did. Just as he had in the first half, Dal Nesbitt began the second with a three-pointer to keep the ‘Cats in the game. Cade Nesbitt would hit a big three as well, while Marshall and Nathaniel Eastman led the Raptors in a fight to keep the lead. Molner scored four points in a row to tie the game at 32 late in the third quarter, and after Marshall took the lead back with a two of his own, DJ Lazelle answered at the buzzer to make it a 34-34 tie after three. The intensity was up, the adrenaline was flowing, and there was no doubt that the fourth quarter would be high-drama and nothing less.
A back-and-forth battle ensued in the beginning of the fourth, but Dal Nesbitt hit a three and a two consecutively to turn the tide and give Twin Valley a lead to desperately hang onto. Over and over Eastman and Scott Calhoun would hit buckets for the Raptors, and each time the Wildcats would come back with an answer. Molner and point guard Colin Lozito put on a show in the last five minutes of the game trading field goals, with Lozito hitting three of the team’s eight second-half-three-pointers at exactly the right moments. But Lozito would also miss two big free throws, and a foul by Lazelle let Eastman put his team within two.
Twin Valley once again mounted a five-point lead only to have it cut down to one with two baskets from Marshall in the final 1:30. But Twin Valley got a huge breakaway layup from Molner with seconds remaining to make the building explode. With a three-point lead, the Wildcats defense was lucky to have a last-second game-tying shot bounce off the rim to seal the victory. That final layup by Molner was a definitive moment for the Wildcats as it sealed another victory over an upper division team, this time one with an undefeated record as well.
“You just have to finish, that’s all I’m thinking about at that moment,” said Molner. “You take the contact and finish. Anybody could have been there, but it’s about finishing down the stretch, executing, and finishing. It was a big game, and this is why I love sports. It’s adrenaline, the emotion, and the crowd, and it’s just fun.” Nesbitt finished with 20 points, while Molner had 17 points and 13 rebounds. Lozito finished with 12 points and seven assists.
TV 69 Arlington 46
The Wildcats played what coach Chris Brown called a cruise control game Tuesday night, but that phrasing by no means comes with a sense of comfort. While Arlington came into the game without any wins, the polar opposite of Twin Valley, Brown felt the game was a 69-point letdown. “We have two tough games against Proctor and Rivendell, and then this game,” said Brown. “It was a letdown game in that we didn’t have our best, we were just better and didn’t need our best.”
Arlington came to the Twin Valley gym with some fight, especially from their beast in the paint DJ Jennings, who led the Eagles with 20 points. Twin Valley got off to a hot start, leading 12-2 within the first three minutes, and ad the makings of a blowout. But the Eagles stuck with it and closed the gap with a 6-0 run to end the quarter with a manageable deficit of 18-10. Twin Valley’s defense would allow double digit points in each quarter, but their offense began to widen the gap with each of the last three quarters. The Wildcats pulled farther away in the third leading 47-32, and finalized the win 69-46.
Colin Lozito led the way for the Wildcats scoring 24, grabbing six rebounds, and dishing out nine assists. Dal Nesbitt added 20 points as well, while a multitude of players made up the rest, including Keegan Reed, TJ Felisko, Eli Park, and DJ Lazelle. Sam Molner would record three blocks on the night, marking the second time in five days that a Wildcat set a school record. With his latest swats, Molner passed Skyler Duncan on the Wildcat’s list of all-time shot blocks with 120. Molner is only a junior averaging just under three blocks per game this year.
With their victory over Arlington, the Twin Valley boys are 13-0 on the season, a remarkable feat for a team that won only eight games last season. “We haven’t lost yet so I don’t know why we would want to start,” said Lozito. “We have tough games coming up, and we need to keep doing what we’ve been doing. It’s nothing incredible, it’s defensive intensity, creating turnovers, and utilizing our buckets.”