The Maquoketa Valley boys’ basketball team had a busy week playing three games. On Dec. 15, the Wildcats traveled to East Buchanan for a 54-37 win. Two nights later they hosted Lisbon in a rescheduled game, losing at the buzzer, 40-37. The following night they hosted the conference-leading Lynx from North Linn coming up short in a 75-43 loss.
Against the Buccaneers the Wildcats got off to another slow start going down early 9-2, but were able to battle back to end the first only down four. Coming out in the second they continued to play good ball before allowing East Buchanan to go on a small run to end the first half down 32-24. In the third the Wildcats were able to make some adjustments and start playing their kind of basketball by putting pressure on the defensive end to create some offense, shooting the ball well to propel them back into a 40-28 lead going into the fourth. They controlled the game in the fourth quarter for a 54-37 win.
Coach Eric Conner said, “I was really happy how our guys responded once we got down and battled back to 4 at the end of the first. We had another little rough patch at the end of the half and EB went up four again at halftime. I was so impressed with our poise when we got into tough situations and our patience in the second half to move the ball around and get good looks. We finally showed what we are capable of by hitting 13 three-pointers last night. Mitch Heims had a huge game for us hitting some big shots to keep the game close in the first half and then coming out of the locker room and hitting a couple of shots again to help us build a lead and scoring a total of 12 points on the night. Andrew Holtz led us in points again scoring 16, and I have just been so pleased with how he has played in these first four games. He is definitely playing like a senior. Owen Mensen got himself going last night as well scoring nine points, and AJ Ambundo did a great job of adjusting at halftime and finishing around the rim in the second half and totaling 10 points.”
MV’s leaders against East Buchanan were: points — Andrew Holtz 16, Heims 12, Ambundo 10, Mensen nine, Avery Holtz five, Miguel Bojorquez two; assists — Avery Holtz 12, Andrew Holtz two, Mensen one; rebounds — Ambundo and Bojorquez five, Avery Holtz, Andrew Holtz two, Mensen, Heims one; steals — Ambundo three, Heims two, Lucas Orcutt, Bojorquez one.
Dec. 17 had the Wildcats up against the Lisbon Lions, and it was a nail biter from the opening whistle until the very last shot when Lisbon’s Will Bennett hit a last-second three at the buzzer for a 40-37 win. It was a low scoring affair in the first quarter with only 11 points scored. The Wildcats did not let Lisbon’s size get to them as they were able to keep Lisbon from dominating the boards on both ends of the court.
In the second both teams were able to pick up their games on the offensive side of the ball. Senior Jacorrey Wallace came off the bench midway through the second creating a boost on both ends of the court.
The Wildcats continued to play solid in the third quarter outscoring Lisbon by one point. With less than two minutes to play in the third, Mensen hit a crucial three-pointer giving the Wildcats a 26-25. Orcutt was able to block the Lisbon shot on the other end knotting the score after three 26-26.
Starting the fourth quarter the Wildcats were tougher on the boards but were just not able to make shots or create second-chance points. With 3:52 left in the fourth sophomore Avery Holtz pulled down an offensive rebound, putting it right back up for two and a chance for three-point play. With 2:14 to play Orcutt drove for a layout tying the score at 33. Lisbon’s big man Tyson Scott was able to score underneath on the following possession and creating a foul on the Wildcats. After making the free throw the Lions were up 36-33. After failing to score on their next possession the Wildcats fouled Scott who made one of two on the line, extending the Lions lead to 37-33. With 1:10 left Ambundo was fouled on the boards and made both of his free throws, narrowing the lead to 37-35. With only 30 seconds to play Lisbon missed their free throws, giving the Wildcats a shot to win or tie the game. Conner called a timeout with 11.7 seconds to play. On the ensuing play, Avery Holtz inbounded the ball to brother Andrew who drove for a layup tying the score at 37 with only five seconds left. The Lions got the ball quickly to their end of the court and Bennett hit a three as the time ran out for the 40-37 win.
Following the game, Conner said, “Our number one goal coming into the game was to control the glass on the defensive end and only allow Lisbon one chance at scoring each possession. I thought we did a very good job of that for three quarters, but there was a stretch when we got tired late in the game where we just didn’t box out and rebound and we let Lisbon have two, three and four looks at scoring. The entire game was a struggle offensively to score, and when you add that into the equation, we are putting ourselves behind the eight-ball. I thought Avery Holtz had his first great game of the season and finally played how we expect him to play each night. They made it an effort to shut us down and make us work on the perimeter, and that showed with our shooting percentage. I was super proud of how hard our kids played and how they executed down the stretch to tie the game. We talked in the locker room that sometimes people hit shots and you have to tip your cap to them. The Bennett kid hit the biggest shot of his life, and you have to give Lisbon credit for that.”
MV’s leaders against Lisbon were: points —Avery Holtz 15, Andrew Holtz nine, Ambundo seven, Mensen four, Orcutt two; assists — Andrew Holtz two, Avery Holtz, Bojorquez, Jacorrey Wallace one; rebounds — Ambundo five, Mensen, Orcutt two, Bojorquez, Mensen one; steals — Ambundo two, Andrew Holtz, Bojorquez, Mensen, Wallace one.
On Dec. 18, the Wildcats found themselves up against the Tri-Rivers West Conference-leading and undefeated 6-0 Lynx, losing the game 75-43. The Lynx came out strong from the start outscoring the Wildcats in the first half 37-15. The Wildcats were just not able to execute on both ends of the court well enough to bring home the win.
“We talked about this game being more mental than it was physical. We are really working on our program turning the corner and getting our guys to really believe that we are capable of competing with any team that is on our schedule. We came out in the first quarter and really made North Linn work for their points. Looking at their scores, I believe we held them to their lowest first-quarter point total, 11 points. We got some very good looks that we just didn’t hit, but being down five at the end of the quarter is right where we wanted to be. We got outscored 26-9 in the second quarter and that was really the difference in the ball game. If we reduce that margin in the 2second quarter and hit a few more shots, we are looking at a 10–12-point game. I was very pleased with the confidence that we saw out of our guys and the way they fought the entire game. Hopefully, we were able to build some confidence from this game that will carry into next week with two winnable games before break,” said Conner after the contest.”
MV’s leaders against North Linn were: points — Ambundo 16, Avery Holtz 10, Mensen eight, Andrew Holtz four, Orcutt, Brock Trenkamp two, Devante Strickland one; assists — Avery Holtz three, Orcutt, Wallace one; rebounds — Heims six, Ambundo five, Andrew Holtz four, Wallace, Avery Holtz three, Orcutt two, Mensen, Brock Daack, Strickland, Andrew Hildebrand one; steals — Ambundo, Orcutt one.