The 2018 Times Argus Player of the Year suffered a mid-season ankle injury, causing his stats to dip a little due to missed games. But once he returned to full strength, Tassie competed with the heart of a lion. He averaged 14 points, four assists, four rebounds and two assists per game, leading the Blue Devils to their eighth straight championship appearance. Even though Williamstown fell short in the title game, Tassie thrilled fans with a 25-point effort and a flurry of late 3-pointers. The point guard made 35 percent of his 3-point attempts, draining 51 3-pointers in all. He also added another dimension by slashing to the rim for short runners and layups. And if the shot was contested, Tassie never shied away from sacrificing his body to give his team a few more points. His contributions were vital to a 19-5 Blue Devils side that swept D-II powerhouse Montpelier in addition to beating D-I Lyndon and D-IV champ Danville.
“He could get into the lane and make things happen, so people had to guard him tight, and he saw everybody’s best defender,” Williamstown coach Jack Carrier said. “He’s got a pull-up jumper in the lane, he can finish at the rim and his 3-point shot is good enough where you definitely have to defend him. He is tough to stop because he has that strength factor too. And with his true competitiveness, he is going to try and help his team but also beat the person he is playing against. He can guard a bigger guy. He can guard smaller, quicker guys to get a stop. And I would put him on other teams’ No. 1 player.”
The sharpshooter paced the Wildcats in scoring for the second straight season, leading Hazen in every offensive category during an 18-4 season. The point guard made it rain from 3-point range, scoring a season-high 30 points during a victory over Randolph. He averaged 20 points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists per game, making 88 percent of his foul shots. He was a lethal 41 percent from long range, haunting opponents with 62 3-pointers. Despite every attempt to contain Baker, he led the Wildcats to a victory over D-III champ Thetford and a season sweep against D-IV champ Danville. Baker also helped Hazen defeat D-II runner-up Lake Region and D-III semifinalist Peoples Academy.
“For a sophomore, he’s as good as anybody out there,” Hazen coach Aaron Hill said. “We faced box-and-ones and he was face-guarded all year. And he still was able to put up big numbers and lead us in every category. Everybody is pretty impressed with his shooting ability, and he’ll shoot the ball from well beyond NBA range. Defensively, he’s got great hands and he is very good about getting into the passing lanes and reading people and just getting steals for transition baskets. He plays much bigger than he is and he’s the most skilled player I have ever coached in 20 years. He’s also a very humble kid and he’s super composed out there. He just doesn’t get rattled.”
The Trojans’ power forward is a strong candidate for the “Most Improved” award after playing junior varsity most of his freshman season. He started his sophomore campaign with a 25-point performance and routinely broke into double-figures during the following month. But it wasn’t until the second half of the season that he really showed his true colors, averaging 22 points during a 10-game stretch. He finished the season with an average of 18 points and 11 rebounds per game, giving Twinfield fans lots of optimism looking forward. The Trojans were hot early in the season during a victory over D-IV champ Danville, and a 24-point effort by Fowler fueled a late-season 55-42 victory over Rivendell. Fowler recorded 16 points and 15 rebounds during a 55-44 playoff victory over Websterville Baptist, and in the quarterfinals he contributed 16 points and 12 rebounds against Danville.
“He was our work horse inside,” Twinfield coach Chris Hudson said. “He got a lot of rebounds and we did a lot of sets for him to get the ball inside. And toward the end of the year he started doing some nice things on the defensive end. He gets around guys when they try and throw it in the post against him and he steals the ball. And he’s only going to improve. He has only scratched the surface on where he can be. By the end of his senior year, he’s going to be a really, really good ball player. He’s maybe 6-foot-2 and he doesn’t have a huge frame yet. But he’s got potential to grow a little bit more, which will only enhance that inside presence. What he lacks in a little bit of size, he does make up with skill and brains. He uses his body well and uses his mind well to get inside and get easy points.”
Peloquin played every position except center for the 11-10 Warriors. He joined the 1,000-point club as a junior and finished his high school career with 1,440 points. This season, he averaged 17 points, six rebounds, two steals and two assists per game while shooting 70 percent from the free-throw line. The coaching staff implemented a new system during preseason that tightened the reins on Peloquin’s off-ball movement, but he learned to adjust while carrying out a different role. He fueled a payback victory over Twinfield late in the season, scoring 11 of his 29 points in overtime. Peloquin also guided the Warriors to a season sweep over Northfield.
“He’s a scorer for sure,” coach Mark Peloquin said. “He’s a good shooter and he’s got a pretty good vertical, which helps him. He takes the ball to the hole well and he has some good moves. He’s quick but it’s not like he’s that fastest kid on the floor all the time. He loves to steal the ball, he loves to block shots and he probably was our best passer. He would draw attention and he would often see double teams, so that’s when he could open it up for other players. And in a tight game down the stretch, we wanted the ball in his hands. He put away four or five games from the foul line for us. To me, that is certainly a leader of sorts: someone that’s willing to take it on. I wouldn’t want to be that guy on the foul line with the game on the line.”
The Capital City’s king of the double-double followed up an outstanding freshman season by leading the Solons to a 16-6 record. Riby-Williams was equally productive in transition or half-court sets, using his wingspan to crash the glass with authority. He averaged 15 points and 10 rebounds per game, and his greatest strength was the ability to produce night in and night out against some of the best big men in Vermont. That reliability led MHS to victories over D-II runner-up Lake Region and D-II semifinalist Milton. The Solons also swept D-III champ Thetford.
“Leo is the guy everybody prepares for, and Leo knows that,” Montpelier coach Nick Foster said. “He does so many things for us, and there’s a lot of things he does that you just can’t practice. He has a knack for getting his hands on the ball, he rebounds well, he plays good defense and he blocks shots. He creates his own shots in a lot of different ways, and he’s tough for people to guard because he’s such a good passer and he’s very unselfish. This season I thought he came a long way trying to become a leader, and a vocal leader. He plays with emotions at times, and usually that’s on the positive side. The teams that defend him best tend to play off of him and force him to shoot, because he’s still developing confidence in his shot. But he’ll find ways to score. He’ll outrebound opponents or he’ll outrun them. When we run our down-and-backs in practice, he tries to win every sprint. And he does 9 times out of 10.”
The shooting guard led the Blue Devils in scoring and was also the team’s top foul shooter. He finished with 74 3-pointers after making 43 percent of his attempts, and he averaged 15 points per game. Orton also played at the point of his team’s zone defense, successfully keeping opponents out of the paint. During the off-season, he coaches an AAU team and helps out with Williamstown summer camps.
“Tyler was able to step up and do some real big things for us,” Carrier said. “He had a lot of 3s, but he’s a lefty and he also had some nice floaters in the lane. If we needed a tough shot to be made, we looked to him a lot. We set him up for a lot of kick-out 3s, and we would attack on his floater a lot too. He is a kid a coach really enjoys coaching because he is going to do just what you ask him to do any time you need it. And I know he will definitely move on and be a future coach. He really has an appreciation for the game, and he’ll be a good coach down the road because he sees the game well.”
The reigning Times Argus Golfer of the Year was also a force to be reckoned with on the court, averaging 11 points per game for the Raiders (13-9). He shot 74 percent from the foul line and 43 percent from the floor, making 31 percent of his attempts from 3-point range. He scored 13 points against D-I power Mount Mansfield, going 5 of 5 from the line. He drew more charges than any of his teammates, earning a reputation as one of the Capital Division’s most composed players during frantic situations.
“He is one of our better team defenders in terms of help-side and things like that. And his leadership, on and off the court, was really important to our team,” U-32 coach Dan Gauthier said. “He is as fierce of a competitor as they come, but he is also a very compassionate teammate. So his intangibles are really high-level. And he is a golf standout, so I think URI is getting a terrific person in their golf program next year.”
Ricker rose to the occasion as one of the underclass centerpieces of Montpelier’s high-tempo offense. The shooting guard thrived on the wing, silencing opponents with corner 3-pointers and pull-up jumpers. He averaged 13 points and three assists per game, helping MHS (16-6) earn the No. 2 seed for the D-II playoffs. During the first round he scored a game-high 18 points to help eliminate Vergennes.
“Tyler doesn’t get rattled easily,” Foster said. “And if he is, he does a nice job of not showing it. He established himself as a good perimeter defender for us and he plays 26 or 27 minutes a game. ... He plays multiple positions and you can always count on Tyler. We knew that we’d have to replace some scoring, and we hoped we’d get some scoring from Tyler. But he gave us more than expected at a young age.”
The second-year varsity player took on a lot of responsibility as a Division I point guard, but he never disappointed the Tide faithful. During an early-season battle against St. Albans, he showed the Barre crowd what he’s capable of, recording 14 points, seven assists, five rebounds and four assists. He finished the season averaging 13 points per game after making 50 percent of his attempts from the floor. He also averaged three rebounds, two assists and two steals a game.
“He was able to control the pace for us and he was probably our most consistent offensive threat,” Spaulding coach Jesse Willard said. “When he is out in space, he can really get the ball moving up and down. But he also sees the court and can calculate the numbers pretty quickly and slow it down if we need to. He was a captain this year and is definitely a leader on the floor. And as a senior I think we can expect him to be more of a leader in the locker room for next year.”
The transfer from Websterville Baptist averaged nine points and seven rebounds for the Crimson Tide. His presence in the paint was crucial, helping Spaulding avoid glaring mismatches. He tallied 12 points and 12 rebounds during a victory over Colchester, and he finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds against Burlington.
“He grew up playing with this group of seniors, from Barre Town and through AAU,” Willard said. “And you’re not going to turn away a guy who is 6-foot-4 transferring into your program. ... Alex was solid for us offensively, and on a nightly basis he was a big key for us defensively. He has got a lot of things that don’t show up in the stats. He averaged one steal per game. But altering shots doesn’t show up on the stats sheet, and that is key.”
Sam Bigglestone, Spaulding
Jonah Cattaneo, Montpelier
Carter Pelzel, U-32
Anthony Engelhard, U-32
Will Lapointe, Harwood
Charlie Zschau, Harwood
Colby Gingras, Williamstown
Garrett Metcalf, Williamstown
Caiden Crawford-Stempel, Northfield
Lincoln Ilsley, Oxbow
Louis Angione, Peoples
Joe Buonanno, Peoples
Max McKenna, Stowe
Freddy Larsen, Hazen
Jordyn Holt, Twinfield
Logan Wright, Randolph
Zach Whitmore, Randolph