TV 55 Twinfield 46
The Twin Valley gym was packed and noisy, the energy was high, and for parents and other fans alike, the stress level was off the charts. For the Twin Valley Wildcat basketball players, the enormity of their second-round matchup against Twinfield would boil down to simple elements of the way they’ve played their game all year. Perseverance, determination, a big third quarter, and flat-out good defense when they needed it propelled this group of Wildcats to the Barre Auditorium for the first time in their lives, with a 55-46 win over Twinfield.
When Twinfield and Twin Valley met earlier in the year, the Wildcats won by only a three-point margin, a game which would prove to be a precursor to Friday’s matchup. Neither team hit a shot in the first three minutes of play as a sloppy first quarter set the tone for the next three. The Trojans got out to an early 8-4 lead, but the Wildcat began to employ their half-court press and started forcing turnovers. The Wildcats’ aggressive defense would also cause early foul trouble, with lockdown defenseman Eli Park snagging two fouls early. Colin Lozito would lead his team throughout and scored six of his team’s 12 in the first quarter, while DJ Lazelle came off the bench to score four in a row.
After one, the Wildcats found themselves down 13-12, while the second quarter would provide more foul trouble, missed free throws, and a lack of effective rebounding. Dal Nesbitt, Sam Molner, and Lozito would all add to the Wildcats’ score in the second quarter, while a panel of scorers kept Twinfield on top going into the half, 24-22. They were out-rebounded, and out-shot, but the Wildcat defense had kept them miraculously behind by only two points. The Wildcats not only had to overcome their opponent in the first half, there was also a slew of very questionable calls by the three-man referee team, at which impeded their progress. Twin Valley had to put the first half behind them if they were going to succeed in the second.
With all of these elements in mind, the Wildcats still were entering the third quarter, an eight-minute period where time and time again they saw success during the regular season. Lozito hit a quick three from the top of the key to begin the half, followed by five straight points from Nesbitt, including two off a flying pass from Park, to put the Wildcats up 30-24. The Wildcats would go up by nine after Cade Nesbitt hit a three, followed by a two, from his brother Dal. The Trojans were too good to let the Wildcats run away with the game. The outsized Twinfield players continued to somehow snag offensive rebounds and eventually tied the game at 37. Lozito hit two big shots at the end of the quarter, including a pull-up over three defenders, to put the Wildcats up 41-37 after three.
The last eight minutes were a dogfight with close-quarters combat, and when Twin Valley needed it the most, the rebounding game swung into action. The Trojans scored five straight points to go up 42-41, while their defense allowed no scoring for the first 2:30 of the quarter. But Lozito finally broke the ice with a three-pointer, and Dal Nesbitt took advantage of a three-point play to put the ‘Cats up 47-42 with 2:50 left. DJ Lazelle, the team’s sixth man rebounder pulled down a huge offensive rebound moments later, leading to another Nesbitt three-pointer. Twinfield scored four more, but they were forced to play the foul game with a minute left. Lazelle, Cade Nesbitt, and Sam Molner would all miss big free throws in the final minute and Park would foul-out of the game. Freshman TJ Felisko, who has grown tremendously into a defensive role, came in and helped stem the tide on multiple occasions, when the Wildcats found themselves in foul trouble. Nesbitt finished the game with three more points from the line, and Twin Valley stamped their ticket to the Aud.
Another accomplishment checked off, Lozito seemed a bit awestruck by the moment. “It means everything to win this game,” said Lozito. “I’ve never played in the Aud, and I wanted to experience it, everyone wanted to experience it, so we’re there and it’s a surreal feeling. It’s a big stage to play on and we’re up to the challenge.”
This moment belonged to all of the Wildcat players who played a role in earning a #1 seed and a trip to the auditorium. “We’ve all been dreaming about this since the first day of the season,” said Lazelle. “Our seven seniors on this team, that’s all they wanted to do, so to all the guys on the court and all of the guys on the bench this is huge. Hopefully we’ll do something no Twin Valley team has done before, and get ourselves a championship.”
Lozito and his teammates are fulfilling their dreams, but taking it one game at a time. “They’re (Twinfield) no ordinary team, they’re one of the best teams we’ll play, and it means a lot to beat them. We played sloppy at times, but we got back to what we know, and that’s what got us to the promised land. The crowd was awesome too, it’s the craziest I’ve ever seen this gym in four years.”
Lozito and Nesbitt combined for 40 points, and Nesbitt led all rebounders with eight. Cade Nesbitt led the Wildcats in assists with seven.
TV 61 Chelsea 46
BARRE- The remarkable run of the 2013-2014 Twin Valley Wildcats basketball team advanced to its grandest, final stage Monday night as the Wildcats knocked off the Chelsea Red Devils 61- 46. The Wildcats are now slated to face Danville in the Division IV final Saturday at 12 pm at the Barre Auditorium. Twin Valley has the chance to win its first boys’ basketball state championship in school history, and as they’ve inched closer to the big test, and as each game has gotten tougher, the Wildcats have gotten better at managing pressure, and finding big contributions at every position. On Monday night, DJ Lazelle and Eli Park provided a big spark for their team. Sam Molner got into foul trouble early, and Lazelle was able to come in, change the dynamic of Chelsea’s defense, and snag some huge rebounds. Park, meanwhile, filled the scoring gap early on as Twin Valley’s outside shooters lacked their usual presence. Twin Valley played that same tough man-to-man and zone switching defenses they employed all year, and the Nesbitt brothers, Dal and Cade, were able to grab a combined 11 steals.
Colin Lozito, the team’s commander at point guard, and typically the great facilitator of assists, once again put the scoring on his shoulders, knocking down 21 points on 56% shooting, while Dal Nesbitt followed with 11. Lozito hit a buzzer-beating three-pointer at the end of the first to put his squad up 20-15, also setting the tone for the next three quarters. The Wildcats never let the lead go after the first, increasing their lead by eight, 34-26 at the half, and leading by as much as 18 in the third quarter. Twin Valley let Chelsea pull back to a 10-point difference with two minutes left, after Jacob Ivancik hit a big three-pointer for the Red Devils. But the Wildcats allowed no further encroachment, and sealed a return trip to the Aud. Lozito led all scorers with 21, while Brandon Poulin led Chelsea with 11.
Coach Chris Brown said that this team can be summed up with one word: determination. “These boys are so motivated,” said Brown. “They don’t just want this for themselves, they realize no Twin Valley boys’ team has won a championship. We’ve had so many hard-working players come through our school and they want to win it for them too.”
Against Chelsea, the scoring wasn’t always where you expected it to come from, and Brown said that those who stepped up to make plays, like Lazelle and Park, displayed the dedication his players have to each other. “Before the game I told them these games are not about player one and two, it’s about who steps up to make the difference. Monday night it was DJ and Eli who gave us an extra boost. Last year we would have lost that game because we had players not ready to step up. It just shows the improvement and the confidence they’ve built since last year.”