ST. JOHNSBURY — Montpelier guard Tyler Ricker dropped in 17 points to make life miserable for St. Johnsbury during Saturday’s 50-30 boys basketball victory.
Rashid Nikiema finished with eight points for MHS, while teammates Leo Riby-Williams and Nathan LaRosa each scored seven points. Former Williamstown standout Cole Banks chipped in with five points for the Hilltoppers. Teammate Murphy Young also contributed five points, while former Randolph star Fritz Hauser added four points.
“It was tough offensively for us,” Solons coach Nick Foster said. “St. J played really good in the half-court, but our defense has played well all year. And our defense traveled today and really that’s why we were able to hang onto a lead and pull away late.”
Riby-Williams grabbed 10 rebounds for the Solons. Ricker finished with six boards, while teammate Will Bruzzese dished out six assists.
“I was impressed with how we did on the defensive glass,” Foster said. “Hauser is big and they have some strong guys. We were able to limit them to one shot most of the time. And when they did get an offensive rebound, they weren’t able to capitalize. We pressured the ball well and rotated well on defense the best we have all year. And then we closed out the possessions.”
Montpelier didn’t mess around during the opening minutes, clamping down defensively and denying any easy scoring opportunities. The Solons were in front 12-6 after the first quarter and led 21-12 entering halftime.
“St. J did a really good job of getting back on defense,” Foster said. “We had an opportunity to run, but we didn’t score a whole lot in transition. We got some drive-and-kick 3-pointers by Tyler. But we didn’t score many points in transition outside of a couple baskets.”
Bruzzese hit a 3-pointer from the left corner for a 36-21 lead. The Solons kept the momentum rolling to finish the third quarter with a 40-21 advantage.
“St. J was just hanging around and waiting for something to happen late in the game to get back in it,” Foster said. “And that was a big shot. …Will does so much for us: controlling the pace, not turning it over, finding the open guy. He gets everybody involved.”
The Solons waited for the Hilltoppers to foul at the start of the fourth quarter, resulting in 42-21 advantage. Montpelier didn’t stall for long, and St. Johnsbury’s options were limited down the stretch as the final outcome became more and more apparent.
“We slowed down too much offensively early in the fourth quarter, so we got stagnant,” Foster said. “And that wasn’t our approach until a lot later, so we wanted to be more active.”
Montpelier took defending Division I champ RIce to overtime last winter before falling, 73-70. The Solons suffered a 53-52 loss against Fair Haven in the Division II championship. St. Johnsbury lost to the Green Knights, 53-51, in the D-I title game. The Hilltoppers beat Rutland, 54-50, in the 2019 championship.
“The guys expect to be in every single ball game and they’ve bought in,” Foster said. “They know that if we play really good on the defensive end and rebound the ball, we’ll give ourselves a shot every single game. Because we’re talented enough on the offensive side.”
Montpelier will travel to play Thetford at 7 p.m. Saturday.
U-32 52, Lyndon 35
LYNDON — The Raiders relied on their upperclass stars and another smothering defensive effort in the opening half during Saturday’s victory.
Last year U-32 thrived on holding opponents to under 20 points during the first two quarters. Coach Dan Gauthier’s team was up to the task again vs. the Vikings, entering halftime in front 28-13. Lyndon trimmed the deficit to 33-26 at the conclusion of the third quarter before the Raiders slammed the door at the end.
Owen Kellington scored a team-high 13 points for the Raiders and grabbed nine rebounds. Point guard Anthony Engelhard didn’t commit a single turnover and finished with 12 points, six assists and three steals. Aiden Hawkins was also all over the place — in a good way — for the Raiders. He tallied nine points, three rebounds, three assists and three steals.
According to Gauthier, his squad’s early focus and energy played a crucial role in determining the final outcome.
“Our No. 1 key to today’s game was to get off the bus, and I thought that we were absolutely successful doing that,” he said. “It all starts with our intensity and communication on the defensive end. We played really good man-to-man defense and took them out of what they wanted to do a little bit. And our rebounding effort was tremendous. A lot of their possessions throughout the first half were one and done. And that allowed us to get out in transition, find the open guy and get some easier looks.”
Evan Sanborn paced LI with 13 points. Gavin Williams, Will Mitchell and Chevy Bandy added six points apiece for the Vikings, who drained a trio of 3-pointers in the third quarter.
“Our defense was still good in the second half — it just wasn’t at that top tier like it was in the first half,” Gauthier said. “And Lyndon made some shots. In pre-game and in timeouts and at halftime, we talked about how we can still play good defense and a team can make shots and it’s not a bad possession. Lyndon played well in the third quarter and matched their first-half scoring total, so we tried to hit the reset button. We tried to recalibrate and come back out and turn it back up in the fourth quarter.”
Jacob McCoy contributed six points, four rebounds and two assists for U-32, which led 15-6 after the first quarter. Fifteen Raiders suited up Saturday and every player entered the contest.
“It was great to give guys that opportunity to compete in a live game,” Gauthier said. “Jake Fair and Charles Haynes scored their first varsity points today. Lyndon tried to come after us a little bit in the fourth quarter with some full-court and half-court pressure. And they did a nice job of settling themselves and finishing it out. It truly was a total team effort. Our starters and our rotational subs were totally in concert on the offensive and defensive ends. We took a big step toward reaching our potential just with how we were able to play basketball. It was a lot of fun to watch and coach. And from what the guys were saying, it was a lot of fun to play.”
U-32 will travel to face BFA-St. Albans at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. Lyndon will host North Country the same day at 6:30 p.m.
“Their new floor was beautiful and they did a wonderful job with the design and the paint,” Gauthier said. “It really looks sharp. The Lyndon fans are going to enjoy it next season when they finally get to see it.”
Lamoille 69, Williamstown 51
HYDE PARK — The Blue Devils showcased resiliency after an ice-cold start but never completely recovered during Saturday’s loss.
The Lancers jumped out to a 14-0 lead before Williamstown finally woke up after the opening minutes of play. The Blue Devils trailed 20-15 when the first-quarter buzzer sounded and fell behind 41-26 in the second quarter. Lamoille closed out the third quarter with a 54-38 advantage.
Lamoille’s top performers were Jackson Stanton (17 points) and Shane Royer (14 points). Teammate Liam Dearson scored all 12 of his points on 3-pointers. Ethan Alexander added eight points for the Lancers, who connected on 11 3-pointers as a team.
Thomas Parrott (14 points, four steals) set the tone for the Blue Devils. Teammates Tavien Rouleau (eight points) and Blake Clark (seven points) were also key contributors. James DeForge and Quinn Higgins scored six points apiece, while fellow Blue Devil Michael Murphy grabbed a team-high five rebounds.
“It seemed like every time we’d make a run, they’d hit a 3,” Williamstown coach Jack Carrier said. “We tried to pull it out. And for a young team, I was pleased that we didn’t cave. At one point in the fourth quarter we closed it to single digits and they came down and hit a couple 3’s and opened it up again. Unfortunately we gave up a couple open looks. But watching them fight back, they showed some character. They pulled it together and we played them pretty evenly in the second half, even being down as much as we were.”
Lamoille will travel to play Williamstown at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
“I wish we had a full season this year just because it’s the type of team that needs more experience under our belt to get prepared for playoffs,” Carrier said. “We’re playing well for small parts of games right now. And we need to play well for the whole game.”
Hazen 52, Peoples 40
HARDWICK — The Wildcats avenged last year’s regular-season loss with Saturday’s victory over the Wolves.
Hazen led 41-27 after three quarters and kept PA in check down the stretch.
“PA beat us last year, they’re our rivalry game and it’s always great to beat them at their gym,” Wildcats coach Aaron Hill said. “They’re a good team and there’s a lot of potential for them to do well.”
Jadon Baker led the Wildcats with 13 points. Carter Hill and Isaiah Baker each scored 11 points in the victory. Teammate Tyler Rivard grabbed nine boards. Chander Follensbee and Charlier Veit each dropped in 18 points for PA.
“It was a good grind-it-out game,” coach HIll said. “That’s a place that’s been very difficult for us over the years. We were very happy to get out of there with a win — and a double-digit win at that. In the second quarter, we were able to get some separation. We were up by 11 at the half and then they had a little run in the third. That’s a tough place for us to play, but we were able to stretch it out.”
Harwood 5, Hartford 0
WATERBURY — Junior Skylar Platt registered his 100th career point with an all-out, end-to-end effort during Saturday’s victory over the Hurricanes.
“It’s a pleasure to coach someone with his ability and passion,” Harwood coach Shawn Thompson said. “He’s the type of player that has the ability to bring everybody around him up to a higher level. And it’s not just about his own play. It’s about everybody else around him. We’re obviously proud that he reached this milestone, and at a young age still. It’s pretty amazing for a junior to reach 100 points. It makes a coach’s job pretty easy when you have somebody like that and you can put them on the ice and know that they’re going to perform.”
The Highlanders pulled ahead with 4:55 left in the first period when Finn O’Hara scored on assists by Platt and Tanner Woodard. Platt hit the century mark 58 seconds into the second period on an assist from Woodard.
The multi-sport standout took a face-off in the defensive zone and immediately chased after the loose puck near the boards. A takeaway by Woodard just inside the blue line set the stage for Platt, who beat two Hartford defenders across center ice. The three-sport standout skated toward the right post with a quick burst, causing one Hurricane to fall to the ice. Platt waited until the last second before firing a wrist shot past the Hurricanes goalie.
O’Hara set up Platt for 3-0 lead with 8:43 left in the middle period. Garrett Nelson and Platt assisted O’Hara to make it 4-0 before the end of the second period.
“There was a play on our fourth goal where Skylar had the puck and Finn yelled to him from behind the net,” Thompson said. “Skylar sent it behind the net to FInn, and Finn came around the net. And Skylar went right to the far post and it was a boom-boom pass play and a one-time goal where there was nothing the goalie could do about it. And that is the epitome of the connection that those two have. And it’s really hard for other teams to stop. It’s a really wonderful tool for a coach to have the two of them together.”
Platt cashed in on assists from Finn and Gavin Thomsen to cap the scoring. Goalie Liam Guyette made 22 saves for the Highlanders, who are still adjusting after coach Jacob Grout’s unexpected departure from the team.
“The boys have been through a lot in the past week,” Thompson said. “And we’ve talked with them this week about getting that out of their system. And now we need to play Harwood hockey, which is scoring goals, playing hard and being respectful and not getting penalties. They really wanted to work hard to prove that they are the team that we think they are. Everyone has a lot expectations about them this year given our success last year and the fact that we have mostly returning players. So it was nice to see them succeed in a big way. And everyone came together as a family, which is something coach Jake Grout instilled upon them. And something Martin (Casey) and I are continuing to do.”
A pair of Harwood players were ejected during Wednesday’s 3-2 victory over U-32. According to Thompson, the Highlanders were determined to stay disciplined during their battle against the Hurricanes.
“They have a solid team with a lot of even players,” Thompson said. “I think our boys really wanted to make a statement that we’re not the team that played Wednesday. The team on Wednesday was an emotional team going through a situation. We a had lots of conversations this week about going forward, and how it’s OK for the kids to feel what they’re feeling. And we need to move forward as a team and rally around that. And I was very proud of them tonight. We only got three penalties, compared to the other U-32 game. It spoke volumes to their maturity and the fact that what happened at U-32 was a one-time thing.”
The defending Division II champs improve to 2-0 and will host Milton at 8 p.m. Wednesday in a rematch of last year’s title game. Platt scored the game-winner 1:52 into overtime to give the Highlanders a 3-2 victory over the Yellowjackets on March 11.
Woodstock 5, Spaulding 2
BARRE — Andrew Gubbins scored twice for the Wasps during Saturday’s victory. Jamison Mast tucked away two goals for the Crimson Tide, who will travel to play Stowe at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
Mount Mansfield 6, Northfield 2
BARRE — Will Hauf’s hat trick helped the Cougars outlast the Marauders on Saturday.
Harwood 5, Rutland 4
RUTLAND — The Highlanders erased an early four-goal deficit Saturday to earn their first victory of the season.
Louisa Thomsen scored the game-winning goal late in the final period on an assist by Hailey Brickey. Teammate Jordan Hunter made 35 saves in goal to help HU hold the Ravens scoreless during the final two periods.
“The team really came together at the end of the second period,” Harwood assistant coach Katie Martin said. “They made better passes and had more shots on net than they did the first part of the game. And they kept the momentum up and worked really well together to find the back of the net. They were very pleased to have their first win of the season.”
Thomsen recorded a hat trick, while Brickey scored twice. Clara Griffin notched one assist for the Highlanders. Elizabeth Cooley, Sydney Wood, Addison Hubert and Alyssa Kennedy scored first-period goals for Rutland. Goalie Arrika Patorti made 28 saves for the Ravens, who led 4-0 after the first period and carried a 4-1 advantage into the final period.
Harwood (1-2) will host defending Division II champ Spaulding at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.