by Ken Brown
HARDWICK – The Hazen boys’ basketball team clobbered Williamstown last week to stay perfect over a holiday break that included Tyler Rivard smashing the single game scoring record and a special night dedicated to the past champions of Hardwick Academy.
Xavier Hill led the Wildcats with 18 points (six 3s) and 10 assists as they improved to 7-0 on the season with a dominant 76-45 home win over Williamstown Friday night. Sophomore Brendan Moodie was also deadly from the outside for Hazen, knocking down five 3s of his own for a 17 point effort. Rivard added 16 and a game-high 11 rebounds and Lincoln Michaud chipped in with 10 points in the win. Brandon Donahue led the Blue Devils with 16 points and David Tom added six in the loss as they fell to 0-7 on the season.
“Williamstown did a good job of taking away the inside with their zone and for us to knock down 10 3’s in the first half was a really good response from the guys. Tyler has been huge down low for us this year, but if teams pack it in and try to limit him, we need to be able to knock down those open shots and it was good to see,” said head coach Aaron Hill.
Division II Enosburg came to town three days after Christmas and Rivard may have made the statement of the year in Vermont high school basketball, scoring a school-record 50 points and pulling down 21 rebounds in an 88-64 Wildcat victory. The big man also added a thunderous breakaway dunk in the third quarter, the first in the “Cat Den” since 2017. Dimitri Vasiliadis’ 42 point effort in 2013 for Hazen Union and Bruce Putvain’s 45 point effort for Hardwick Academy in 1966 were the school record holders for many years. Rivard is having a senior campaign for the ages, averaging 25 points and 15 boards through the first seven games.
“Tyler has been so dominant all year, but to sit there and watch him drop 50 was just amazing. He was just so consistent all game long and for those in the gym that night, it will be something very memorable and special that will last a long time,” said Hill.
The Wildcats hosted Peoples Academy on December 30, running away with a 59-26 victory in what was the first annual Hardwick Academy Night at Hazen Union. Hill and his team honored all past championship teams at Hardwick Academy and a packed house did the same, donning the Terriers Purple and Gold colors. The Wildcats also sported special Hardwick Academy uniforms for the occasion, created by Randy Lumsden and Scott Menard and generously donated by Lamoille Valley Ford. Wiz Dow of the Hardwick Historical Society put the finishing touches on the ceremony by loaning Hazen the 1931 championship trophy for the evening.
“Getting through the COVID season and then winning the championship last year, it just felt right this year to honor the teams and the communities that have meant so much to the sustainability of this program. Mike Clark and Pat Hussey did an amazing job promoting the event and it was emotional to see the turnout and all of the support. So many people were eager to help put this together and donate their time, right down to a throwback cheerleading squad with old school uniforms that was so awesome. We can’t thank everyone enough for supporting the event and coming out to honor Hardwick Academy. This is a special community and it was great to be able to show where it all started. We are excited to make this a yearly event,” said Hill.
The Wildcats and Winooski are the two remaining undefeated teams in Division III and could be on a collision course for a rematch at the Barre Auditorium. Hill’s squad has not been tested yet this winter, but he believes last season hardened his team for the challenges in the rugged Capital League that lie ahead.
“This is a really experienced group that played in a lot of close games in the playoffs last season. They went through the wars together last year right to the end and they have a lot of confidence. They put in the work in practice and they know we have to continue to get better as the season progresses,” said Hill.
Hazen Union will hit the road for the first time on Wednesday night as they travel to Thetford Academy for a pivotal league match-up. They will stay on the road against Randolph on Friday, before welcoming Lyndon Institute to town next Monday.