by Ken Brown
MORRISVILLE – Senior big man Tyler Rivard continued to stamp his name in the school record books last week as the Hazen Union boys’ basketball team swept the season series against Peoples Academy (PA) before losing a nail-biter to Division II power Montpelier and earning a huge divisional win against Thetford Academy.
PA transfer Brendan Moodie showed little mercy for his former school last Wednesday, connecting on five 3-pointers in a 21-point performance to lead the Wildcats to an 86-31 road win. Rivard had an efficient 17 points and 10 boards in limited minutes and Ryan Morrison had a career-high 16 points, including 10 in the fourth quarter. Junior point guard Xavier Hill added 15 points and dished out five assists in the win. The Wolves came into the match-up with momentum following back-to-back upset wins over Thetford Academy and Harwood, but Hazen Union took control of the game early with a 42-19 first half and never looked back. The loss dropped PA to 6-9 on the season and the eleventh seed in the current Division III standings.
“We played quite well on the road against PA and Brendan came out and had his best game of the year. Ryan is improving really quickly and also had a strong performance for us,” said head coach Aaron Hill.
Carter Bruzzese and Carson Cody scored 13 points apiece to lead Montpelier to a gutty 60-55 road win over the Wildcats on Friday night, surviving a record-breaking night by Tyler Rivard. Rivard’s 25 points and school-record 33 rebounds helped Hazen race out to an 18-10 lead after the first quarter, before the Solons trimmed the deficit to just two heading into the break. Both teams were knotted at 41-41 with eight minutes to play, but Bruzzese’s made five of six free throws down the stretch to keep the Wildcats at bay. Ronnie Riby-Williams added eight points and eight boards and Montpelier connected on seven 3-pointers to keep pace at the top of the division II standings with their sixth straight win. Rivard also converted on 11 of his 14 free throw attempts for the Wildcats in what was another milestone night for the senior center, who is cementing himself as one of the best to ever do it in a Hazen Union uniform. His 33 rebounds shattered the previous record of 26 set by Billy Boyd in 2009 and George Luther’s 25 in 1981 at the Barre Auditorium.
“Playing Montpelier was a battle and we were great defensively all game long. Gabe Michaud’s defense was outstanding, holding their leading scorer well below his season average. Tyler had another dominating performance and recorded another program record. We have some big games coming up and Thetford is an important game for us this week. They beat us earlier in the season at their place and they are one of the best teams in our division. They play a unique man to man defense that can be challenging to play against and we are very excited for the rematch,” said Hill.
Hazen Union and Rivard exacted sweet revenge on an earlier season loss to Thetford Academy this past Monday night with a 74-55 thrashing led by a 39-point explosion from the senior, including the one-thousandth of his stellar career. Hazen took a 33-19 advantage into the break behind 17 first half points from Rivard. Nine more points in the third quarter from the senior center swelled the lead to 20 and the Hazen faithful knew something special was brewing. A packed Cat Den stormed the court after Rivard secured a defensive rebound and went coast to coast for the finish with just seconds remaining in the game. Mitchell Parkman led the Panthers in the loss as they fell to 12-4. Rivard’s final season in a Wildcat uniform has already included a record setting 50-point night against Enosburg, becoming the all-time rebounder in school history, and one of the best the state has ever seen. Rivard joins eight others at Hardwick Academy and Hazen Union to reach the career milestone and the first since Isaiah Baker in 2021. He is averaging 24 points and over 16 rebounds per game and with several games remaining, is on pace for truly one of the best single seasons in school history.
Hazen Union is currently ranked second in the Division III standings behind undefeated Winooski and has now widened the gap between them and third-ranked Thetford. The Wildcats welcome Lamoille to town on Wednesday and will travel to Lake Region on Friday night to wrap up their week.