by Ken Brown
BARRE – Thetford Academy (TA) used a relentless defense to force the Hazen Union girls’ basketball team into their worst offensive performance of the season last week at the Barre Auditorium, ending their 19-game win streak and their season at 20-2.
Charlize Brown poured in a game-high 22 points to lead the Lady Panthers to a 60-32 win over the Lady Cats last Thursday in the Division IV semifinals. Junior star point guard Caitlyn Davison was held to a season-low 11 points for Hazen, as they struggled to solve TA’s zone press and trapping defense, forcing them into 34 turnovers on the night.
“Thetford came prepared and executed their game plan,” said head coach Randy Lumsden. “Their defense was the best we had encountered this year. They trapped us well and at times, triple teamed Caitlyn. Their zone and length across their roster made it challenging to get in the paint and we struggled to box out and secure rebounds,” added Lumsden.
Thetford raced out to a 9-0 run to start the game before Craftsbury Academy’s Ella Gillespie drilled a three from the top of the circle midway through the first quarter. Senior Alexis Christensen connected on a pair of long-range jumpers to keep the Lady Cats within striking distance after one period 20-11. Davison came alive to start the second quarter with five straight points to make it 20-16, but several Lady Cat turnovers fueled a 12-0 run by TA and they entered the break up 32-18. Addison Cadwell (16 points) and Madison Mousley (10) helped the Lady Panthers open the second half on a 12-3 run and the rout was on. Davison went 1-2 from the free throw line with 90 seconds left in the third quarter to end her impressive streak of 21 straight makes. Christensen finished the night with nine points on a trio of threes, Gillespie finished with three points, and fellow senior Haley Michaud also finished with three. Christensen started her playoff career with Hazen Union as just a freshman, pouring in a career-high 22 points in a first-round win over Rivendell Academy in 2020. The senior sharpshooter has been a double-digit scorer for Hazen ever since and ends her high school career along with Gillespie and Michaud with the programs first trip to the Final Four since 2018.
“I was really excited and nervous to finally play in the Barre Auditorium. We really came together as a team this year. Because we are so close, we have been able to work together to come this far. As a team, we grew a lot offensively and defensively throughout the season. We always encouraged each other and picked each other up when we were down,” said Christensen.
Coach Lumsden’s first year on the sidelines for Hazen included a 19-game win streak, a Mountain League title, and elevated 2022 Vermont Dream Dozen selection Davison’s game to a new level at over 20 points per game. He will miss the leadership from the trio of his graduating senior starters, but is excited to usher in and develop the talent coming in from a junior varsity team that just completed a 16-0 season in dominant fashion.
“Regardless of the outcome of that game, we had a phenomenal year. The work ethic and dedication this team had is immeasurable. Alexis, Haley, and Ella are three seniors that will not be easy to replace, but we have an extremely talented group coming up through the pipeline all the way down to the six-grade level. Currently we have a group of eighth graders and underclassmen who play year-round in different travel leagues that show promise in adding speed and agility to accompany Caitlyn, Tessa Luther, Sarah Collier, and Sadie Skorstad in their senior year. We won’t be big, but we’ll be able to run. Hopefully having this group play AAU and summer league together will ease the growing pains before the start of next season,” said Lumsden.
Top seeded Windsor edged Thetford 44-40 on Saturday to capture their second consecutive Division III state championship. Windsor ended the season on an 18-game winning streak.