Hazen Girls Reach Final Four Behind Davidson’s Career-High
by Ken Brown
HARDWICK – The Hazen Union girls’ basketball team are headed to the Barre Auditorium for the first time in five years after discarding Winooski and Oxbow in the Division III tournament last week in front of a raucous Cat Den, extending their winning streak to 19 straight games.
Caitlyn Davison, Alexis Christensen, and Tessa Luther combined for nine 3-pointers last Wednesday night as they raced past Winooski in the opening round 81-19. Davison led the Lady Cats with 20, Luther added 15, and Christensen chipped in with 11 in the rout. Winooski scored the first five points of the game, but Luther connected from long range and Christensen added a steal and a finish to get the offense and the crowd going. Luther finished a drive seconds later for their first lead and they never looked back. Craftsbury Academy’s Ella Gillespie had another strong night inside for Hazen with 11 points and freshman Julia des Groseilliers added eight in the win. Stacey Truong led the Lady Spartans with 10 points, including a pair of 3-pointers on the night.
Davison finished off a red-hot February with a career-high 34 points to lead the Lady Cats to the Division III Final Four with a 65-53 home win against seventh-seeded Oxbow over the weekend. Senior Alexis Christensen connected on four more 3-pointers to help Hazen build a 36-23 lead at the break. The Lady Olympians battled back to within two possessions after three quarters behind a team-high 22 from Maggi Ellsworth. Davison sank eight straight clutch free throws down the stretch to keep Oxbow at bay and punch their ticket to the Aud for the first time since 2018. Head coach Randy Lumsden expected a more experienced Oxbow team than the one he saw in December and had his team ready for a battle.
“They’re a young team with three freshmen and two sophomores, but you could see the growth from them as players the last two months and they were just mentally and physically tougher this time around. Caitlyn, Alexis, and Tessa have developed into really good free throw shooters and when you have three guards who are confident stepping up to the line late in games, it gives you options to manage the clock and it gives us a chance late in close games. Playing in the Barre Auditorium is a different animal, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen our gym as packed as it was for a girl’s playoff game as it was this weekend. I had to scream during timeouts so they could hear me. It was loud and awesome, we appreciate the support, and that atmosphere is going to prepare them for what they’re going to experience in Barre,” said Lumsden. Davison is averaging over 20 points per game this season, but over the past six games she has averaged 26 a contest, while setting career highs twice with 31 and 34. She attributes the growth of her game and the growth of this team to a lot of hard work.
“My ability to get to the rim has improved significantly since last year and throughout the season my 3-point shooting has improved as well. Our defensive effort as a team is strong and we force a lot of turnovers. We also try to control the pace of the game right from tip-off, which we struggled to do last season. We work so hard in practice as a team and it has showed throughout the season,” said Davison.
Davison and the Lady Cats will have to be at their best once again against a third-ranked Thetford Academy team that also breezed through their first two games in the tournament and have won six of their last seven. Their only common opponent this season is Oxbow, which they also swept. Lumsden has played many big games at the Aud as a former Wildcat champion and hopes to prepare his team for a different level of basketball this week.
“They play a tough zone defense and we haven’t seen a lot of that this season, but we’ve been preparing for it in practice. We didn’t start out the season as a very good 3-point shooting team, but we’ve been lights out the last six games. There are only elite teams left in the tournament, so the physicality and the speed is going to ratchet up. We got some good tests the last few weeks, so we’re prepared and now it’s about fine tuning things, staying healthy, and locking in. Thetford wants to secure defensive rebounds, look for quick outlets, and play fast. None of the teams left have many holes in their game, so it will be a test,” said Lumsden.
Top-seeded Windsor will take on fifth-seeded Peoples Academy in the first Division III semifinal at the Barre Auditorium at 5:30 p.m., on Thursday. Hazen Union and Thetford will follow at approximately 7:15 p.m.