by Ken Brown
HARDWICK – The Hazen boys’ basketball team found its groove in the second half to pull away from Northfield last week in both squads’ season opener.
Senior sharpshooter Isaiah Baker scored 12 of his game-high 28 points in a decisive third quarter to help the Wildcats put away the Marauders 77-57 Friday night. Baker added eight rebounds, six assists, and six steals to help Hazen break open a tight game with a 26-15 run in the third. Caiden Crawford-Stempel kept the Marauders close for two and a half quarters with a team-high 20.
“They are a very young and talented program and they are much improved from last year. We definitely showed some rust in the first half which is understandable, but we did a nice job of righting the ship after the break. We have a little more height and girth this season and it’s going to allow us to play with more physicality inside than last year,” said head coach Aaron Hill.
Tyler Rivard put his inside presence on display with 15 points and 10 boards and fellow sophomore Jadon Baker had a strong first game with 19 points of his own. Preston Lilly chipped in with 12 points for Northfield in the loss. Coach Hill acknowledged that the lack of fans and the energy in the gymnasium will take some getting used to, but overall everyone was just excited and relieved to finally get the season underway.
“I think it will be more of an adjustment for the players to build their own momentum without fans in the gymnasium, but honestly once we tipped off I think as coaches we kind of just dive into match-ups and the flow of the game. It has been a long wait for these guys and especially our seniors to get back out on the court and just watching them in warm-ups before the game was awesome. It was a good first win and I’m just so happy to see the kids get a chance to compete again,” said Hill.
Hazen is scheduled to host BFA-Fairfax at the “Cat Den” Wednesday night before traveling to Peoples Academy on Saturday in what is always a difficult match-up.