Wildcats to play at 'The Aud'
WHITINGHAM — On Friday night in "Wildcat Country," it was David vs. Goliath.
Giving up six inches and about 100 pounds, Izaak Park helped shut down center Isaac Martel in the second half as the third-seeded Twin Valley varsity boys basketball team topped No. 11 Rivendell 48-46 in a Division 4 quarterfinal.
"The boys are really excited about going to 'The Aud.' One of our season goals was to earn a top four seed and another was to reach the semifinals," said winning coach Chris Brown. "We had a great crowd and that made a big difference."
Chris Walling, Candon Rusin, Skyler Boyd and "T-Bo" were among the Twin Valley legends in the packed house. And the home fans were treated to a thrilling finish.
With his team trailing 43-41, Park drilled a 3 from the top of the key with three minutes remaining to give the Wildcats the lead for good. Colin McHale would make four free throws down the stretch to help the hosts hold on.
"I love those McHale boys," Brown mentioned after the game.
Jack McHale pumped in a game-high 25 points. Park pitched in with nine points, and Colin McHale contributed with eight points.
The Raptors rode the post play of Martel early on and jumped out to a 20-11 lead. "Baby Shaq" used his size to get good position down low and racked up 10 points during that surge.
His 10th point came from the charity stripe with 5:43 left in the opening half after Twin Valley center Dylan Howe picked up his third foul.
"There were two turning points in the game," Brown explained. "When we fell behind 12-3, things could have gone south from there, and Dylan picking up his third foul was costly because No. 45 (Martel) was killing us inside."
Jack McHale took over late in the second quarter, scoring 11 consecutive points for his team as the Wildcats rallied to within 25-24 at the intermission. The junior guard splashed a couple of trifectas, scored on the break, and also knocked down three free throws in that span.
Brown made a key adjustment during the break, asking the undersized Park to front Martel down low. The Rivendell center, who was often triple teamed when he did get the ball, managed just two points — on a fade away — over the last 16 minutes.
The hosts started the second half with a 10-0 run, including layups in transition by Colin McHale, Jack McHale and Owen Grinold. The Raptors would storm back, behind makes from downtown by Tanner Siemons and Kyle Carter, to go ahead 43-41 with 3:30 remaining in the contest.
That's when Park drilled a clutch 3 that put Twin Valley in front for good.
"When he's left open, he's pretty deadly," Brown said of Park.
The Wildcats (16-6) will face the winner of the No. 2 Poultney (15-6) vs. No. 7 West Rutland (12-9) game in Wednesday's semifinal in Barre at 6:30 p.m.
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