by Ken Brown
RANDOLPH – Senior center Tyler Rivard became the all-time rebound leader in school history last week as the Hazen Union boys’ basketball team dominated Randolph before falling to Division II power Spaulding, putting their record at 11-2 on the season.
Rivard continued to add on to an already amazing senior campaign last Monday night, pouring in 23 points and snagging 21 rebounds to lead the Wildcats to a 62-35 road win over Randolph. Senior teammate Jadon Baker drained a trio from long range to add 11 points and five steals as Hazen raced out to a 14-5 lead after one quarter and took a 30-15 advantage into the break. Xavier Hill chipped in with seven points and Gabe Michaud and Ryan Morrison rounded out the scoring with 6 apiece to help fuel an 18-7 run to start the second half. Ethan Davignon led the Galloping Ghosts with 13 points (three 3-pointers) in the loss as they fell to 6-7 on the season. The Wildcats swept the season series with their defense holding Randolph to a combined 68 points.
“This was a good game for us to try some new things that we have been working on and we are looking forward to the challenges we have ahead in the Capital Division to get us more playoff ready,” said head coach Aaron Hill.
Spaulding defended their home court and remained undefeated on the season with a big second half last Wednesday behind Tavarius Vance’s 16 points in a hard-fought 55-43 win over the Wildcats. Brendan Moodie led Hazen with 13 points and put the visitors up by as much as seven, on their way to a 23-20 lead at the break. Cooper Diego (13 points), Cole McAllister (9), and six straight points by 6 foot 7 big man Isaac Davis fueled a 16-7 Crimson Tide run to start the second half to reclaim the lead for good.
“This was a great opportunity for us to face a very strong opponent on the road and for two and a half quarters we had the lead and were in control of the game. When they switched to zone it changed the game and it was a great learning experience for us. I am proud of the effort the boys gave against that team and our effort and execution was awesome. It was a game with playoff intensity and will definitely help us in the future. This is the reason we joined the Capital..we may lose a couple of tough games, but we will be playoff ready at the end of the regular season,” said Hill.
Rivard added 12 points and 11 rebounds in the loss, giving him a Hazen Union school record 800 rebounds for his career. He surpasses Tim Shedd’s record of 793 rebounds that stood for over two decades. Shedd is also the career points leader for the Wildcats with 1,695. Rivard is having a senior season for the ages, averaging over 23 points and 15 rebounds per game, including a record breaking 50 point night in a win over Enosburg back in December.
“I am very happy for Tyler getting the rebound record. He has the physical gifts needed to be such a dominant rebounder and he is so strong it’s very difficult to move him, but that is only part of it. He also has an incredible instinct or ability to read where the ball is going to go off the rim and the desire and determination to fight for every single rebound. He never stops, he goes after everything all the time. His rebounding is a huge part of our success by not only scoring off of his offensive rebounding and allowing us to get out in transition more quickly, but by finishing off stops with a big defensive rebound. Tyler does that better than anyone,” said Hill.
The Wildcats currently sit at the second spot in the division III standings behind undefeated Winooski. They embark on a pivotal stretch within the Capital this week, starting with a trip to archrival Peoples Academy on Wednesday night. They welcome a 9-3 Montpelier team to the ‘Cat Den’ on Friday night and look to avenge a January loss to Thetford Academy next Monday at home.
“It’s a fantastic stretch against good teams and it’s much better than racking up a bunch of easy wins. Our players need to face adversity and tough challenges in preparation for dealing with playoff intensity,” said Hill.