AJ Ambundo shoots a three against Central City.

It took two overtime periods for the Maquoketa Valley boys’ basketball team to defeat Clayton Ridge, 51-48, at home, Dec. 21.

“I am so proud of the way the guys battled through adversity the entire game and found a way to come out with a win, which is what good teams do, even when they aren’t playing their best basketball,” coach Eric Conner said.

Senior guard Andrew Holtz came up big with a game-high 25 points, which also put him over the century mark this season with 103 points.

AJ Ambundo hit a deep three to start the scoring for the Wildcats after both teams committed turnovers on their opening possessions. The Eagles hit their own three-pointer a couple of possessions later to tie the score. Neither team’s shots were falling to start the game. The Eagles took the lead after making two free throws, but Avery Holtz came right back with a three of his own to give the Wildcats a 6-5 lead midway through the first. Andrew Holtz got deep in the lane for a hook shot to extend the Wildcats’ lead. Clayton Ridge hit a two of their own to make the score 8-7. The Wildcats were able to keep the Eagles from scoring for the rest of the first. Andrew Holtz drained two three-point shots to start off the second giving the Wildcats a 20-11 lead with a little over six minutes left. Clayton Ridge outscored the Wildcats, 12-6, giving the Wildcats a 26-23 lead at the half.

The Eagles took their first lead of the game 27-26 with a little over six minutes left but the Wildcats held a slim 38-34 lead heading into the fourth. Clayton Ridge stepped up its defense allowing the Wildcats to score just two points. Neither team was able to hit a shot in the final three minutes of the fourth. The Wildcats had a chance at the end of the fourth to get the win but were unable to get the shot to fall, and at the end of regulation, the score was tied 40-40.

In the beginning of the first four-minute overtime period, neither team was able to get their shots to fall. With three minutes left Clayton Ridge’s junior guard Caden Palmer ended the scoring drought with a three for a 43-40 lead. With 1:30 left Eagle Drake Ostrander hit one of two free throws, 44-40. After Ostrander missed his second free throw the Wildcats Avery Holtz drove the ball down the lane. Eagle William Speilbauer blocked the shot, but Andrew Holtz was able to get the ball, step back and drain a crucial two with 1:10 left to tighten the score 44-42. After a timeout, the Eagles inbounded the ball at mid-court where Ambundo and Owen Mensen surrounded Eagle Caleb Helle causing a bad pass and traveling call by Speilbauer with just 47.5 seconds left. Avery Holtz brought the ball down the court and passed to Andrew Holtz who drove to the lane for two, tying the score at 44-44 with 29.6 seconds left. The Eagles had two opportunities to get the win at the end but were unable to get either shot to drop.

In the second overtime, the Eagles controlled the tip-off and after a missed three by Karston Gebhardt, Helle was able to get the rebound to give the Eagles a 46-44 lead. Andrew Holtz tied it at 46 with a nice layup of his own. After missed opportunities by both teams, Andrew Holtz drove for two with 1:23 left to give the Cats a 48-46 lead. Speilbauer hit both his free throws to tie the score at 48 with 1:04 left.

The Wildcats were content to hold the ball for the last shot. With 22.3 seconds left the Eagles fouled senior Mitch Heims putting him at the line. Heims hit the first shot. The Eagles called a timeout to try and ice the Wildcat, but Heims was able to hit his second free throw giving the Cats a 50-48 lead. On the ensuing play, Miguel Bojorquez knocked the ball out of bounds with 7.6 seconds left. The Eagles called a timeout but a clutch steal by Avery Holtz and a foul by the Eagles put him on the line to clinch the game. Avery hit his first one, but missed the second with just 3.9 seconds left, but grabbed the rebound and hold the ball for a Cats’ 51-48 win.

“In a game like this, every second that you get out of every player is so important, and that is what I was most proud of from everyone. Knowing their role and being ready when it was their time to contribute,” said Conner.

MV’s leaders against Clayton Ridge were: points — Andrew Holtz 25, Avery Holtz 10, AJ Ambundo five, Mitch Heims four, Owen Mensen three, Lucas Orcutt, Jacorrey Wallace two; assists — Andrew Holtz three, Avery Holtz two, Miguel Bojorques, Orcutt, Heims, Wallace one; rebounds — Ambundo seven, Andrew Holtz six, Bojorquez and Orcutt three, Avery Holtz and Wallace two, Heims one; steals — Ambundo and Avery Holtz three, Andrew Holtz, Orcutt, Wallace one.

A day later, MV traveled to Central City for a Tri-Rivers West Conference showdown coming home with the win, 56-25, to go 4-2 in the conference and 6-3 overall. From the opening whistle, the team played good ball on both the offensive and defensive ends of the court. Andrew Holtz made some key shots in the first quarter and the team only allowed Central City four points, taking a 17-4 lead into the second.

Conner said, “Last night was another game that we knew we were favored heading into the game. CC has some number issues and couldn’t play a JV game. We talked about really coming out ready to play and building a lead early so we could work on something that we need to. We did just that and were able to get some guys some extended minutes who haven’t seen the floor much due to us being in so many close games to this point.”

Coming out after halftime with a 32-13 lead the Wildcats’ full-court press defense did not allow Central City to get any momentum, keeping them to single-digit points in all four quarters. With a comfortable lead midway through the third quarter, Conner was able to get some bench players quality playing time.

The Wildcats’ bench also helped provide quality minutes both Devante Strickland, Jacorrey Wallace and Lucas Orcutt.

“I was very pleased with the play of our bench offensively, and we found out that we still have some work to do on the defensive end to be where we want to be in our program. It was good to be able to gain some positive momentum heading into the break. We have some time off now and should get away from basketball for a few days and enjoy our time with family and come back ready to go after break,” said Conner.

Statistics against Central City were not available at press time.