Wildcats Begin Title Defense

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photo by Vanessa Fournier
Hazen Union junior Gabriel Michaud (No. 21) looks to pass around Shea Fontanella (right) of Randolph during regular season play February 24. At left is Joey Ferris (No. 23) of the Ghosts and at far right is his teammate Colton Fordham. Wildcat Tyler Rivard is at back, second from right. Hazen Union outscored Randolph 58-30.

by Ken Brown
WILLIAMSTOWN – The Hazen Union boys’ basketball team finished out the regular season strong against Williamstown and Randolph last week, securing the second seed as they prepare to defend their Division III state championship.
Senior superstar Tyler Rivard made the most of his three quarters of play last Monday against the Blue Devils, pouring in 33 points and hauling down 24 rebounds to lead the Wildcats to an 87-41 road win. Xavier Hill orchestrated the offense with 12 points and four assists as Hazen Union took a 40-17 advantage into the break. Jadon Baker added nine points and nine assists to help fuel a 29-7 Wildcat run to start the second half to leave little doubt of the outcome. Ryan Morrison complimented with a strong nine points and 12 boards in the win. Brady Donahue and Evan Bailey led Williamstown with 10 points apiece in the loss, dropping them to 4-16 on the season. The rebuilding Blue Devils are a year removed from legendary head coach Jack Carrier stepping down after 13 years on the sidelines. Carrier amassed wins at Williamstown with six state titles, perrennialy going toe to toe with Coach Hill’s Wildcats for the right to the Division III throne.
Rivard celebrated Senior Night with 20 points and 27 rebounds to lead Hazen Union to a 58-30 home rout of Randolph on Friday night to wrap up their regular season. Fellow seniors Jadon Baker (12 points four steals), Lincoln Michaud (eight rebounds), and Faisal Al-Nasar (first career varsity point) were honored before the game. Junior varsity coach Mike Baker was also honored after his team’s dramatic come from behind overtime win. Baker is retiring as the longest tenured JV coach in the state of Vermont after 23 years and was an assistant to Hill in his last six state title runs.
“This is a special group of seniors. They are very close and have played together all the way up through since early elementary school. It was really great to have Faisal join them for senior night and then to have him score his first ever point was the most exciting foul shot of the game!” said head coach Aaron Hill.
Rivard and the Wildcats now turn their attention to the playoffs following a regular season for the ages for the senior big man. Rivard is averaging over 25 points and 17 rebounds this season, setting several school scoring and rebounding records along the way. The newly minted 1,000 point career scorer is attempting to lead the Wildcats to back-to-back state championships, but will have to get through a top-heavy Division III gauntlet that includes an 18-0 Winooski team. Rivard was celebrated by the Wildcat faithful last week as one of the best basketball players to ever come through Hill’s program, but he is much more than that. As an All-state goalkeeper and one of the best baseball players in the state, we may never see a three-sport high school athlete dominate Vermont high school sports like this again.
“I don’t think anyone could predict the improvement he has made as a basketball player over the last two years. He is the single most dominating force in Vermont high school basketball. He is already the best three-sport athlete in school history, it’s not even close. As we head into the playoffs, we have a very experienced group, so we are just looking to continue to play good defense and execute on offense. There are some strong Division III teams out there this year and we hope to play our best basketball down the stretch,” said Hill.
The second seeded Wildcats hosted fifteenth-seeded Stowe in the opening round on Tuesday. If they advance, they will host the winner of the White River Valley-BFA-Fairfax matchup on Friday night in the quarterfinal round.

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