by Ken Brown
HARDWICK – The Hazen Union boys’ basketball team rebounded from their first loss of the year in a big way last week with dominant wins over a pair of Division II opponents in Lyndon Institute (L.I.) and Harwood to improve to 9-1 on the season.
Senior big man Tyler Rivard poured in 21 points and ripped down 13 rebounds to power the Wildcats to an 87-46 home win over L.I. last Monday. Junior point guard Xavier Hill had his best offensive performance of the season for Hazen Union, scoring 20 points (four 3-pointers) and dishing out nine assists in the win. Senior Jadon Baker also drained a trio of threes on his way to a 16 point night to round out a balanced Hazen scoring attack. Austin Wheeler led the Vikings with 18 and Gavin Williams chipped in with 13 in the loss. It was the fourth time the Wildcat offense cracked the 80 point barrier this season after being held to a season-low 42 points at Thetford Academy last week. It was the first time back in the Cat Den for Viking’s head coach Eli Appleton, who graduated from Hazen Union in 2013 and wore a Wildcat uniform. It is the first varsity head coaching job for Appleton, who had spent the last four years in a very successful North Country Falcon program.
Rivard continued his torrid pace on Friday night, dropping 25 points and 17 boards in a 63-43 home win over Harwood. Xavier Hill orchestrated the Wildcat offense at a high level once again, scoring 12 points, with five assists, and five steals in the win. Sophomore Brendan Moodie connected from long range three times for 11 points and Lincoln Michaud was solid underneath with nine rebounds on the night. Cole Hill led the Highlanders with 16 points, keeping his team within seven points at the break, but the Wildcat defense would stiffen the rest of the way. It bears repeating the kind of historical season that Rivard is having in his senior campaign at Hazen Union. Rivard already shattered the single-season rebound record last winter and did the same to the single game scoring record earlier this season with a 50 point explosion against Enosburg. Rivard is averaging nearly 24 points per game and pulling down 15 rebounds as he attempts to lead the Wildcats to back to back division III state titles.
“I think the loss to Thetford helped refocus this group a little bit this past week,” said Hill. “Xavier is starting to play with a lot more confidence and Jadon is really starting to come on offensively for us at the right time. Gabe has been giving the team a huge lift night in and night out. Our rematch with Thetford this week is a game we are extremely motivated to play. They are playing great basketball right now and will be a big challenge for us that we embrace” added Hill.
Winooski continues to pace the division with an 8-0 unblemished record, with Hazen Union sitting at No. 2 at 9-1 and Thetford at No. 3 at 7-1. Hazen welcomes the third ranked Panthers to town on Wednesday night for a pivotal divisional rematch and will end their week with a road trip to U-32.