by Doug McClure/photos vis 802Sports

BARRE – In a nail-biter at the Aud, the 18-4 Hazen Wildcats won against Winooski’s 21-2 Spartans, winning the Division III championship for the first time in six years. The final seconds nearly saw a tie as a long-shot attempt by Winooski fell inches short of tying the game. The final score was 37-34, Hazen. 

The opening saw Daniel Surma of the Spartans and Hazen’s Tyler Rivard jump ball ended up with the ball far into Spartan territory. Two three-point attempts by the Spartans fell short, which became a theme for Winooski throughout the first half.

Xavier Hill got the rebound and got it to Carter Hill. Hill returned the ball to Rivard. Surma fouled Rivard, leading to the first free-throw point of the game from Rivard. In response, Surma laid it in for two, but Rivard scored again.

Aiden Johnson turned over the ball from Rivard, giving a Winooski another two. On the return, Winooski again fouled Hazen giving Hazen a one-point lead at 5-4.

A three-point Spartans attempt failed and Carter Hill brought the ball to Winooski with a reverse layup. Winooski scored, but another foul from the Spartan’s Ayden Johnson presaged the expensive role fouls would play for Winooski.

Rivard got the rebound. A three-point attempt by Jadon Baker fell short, but Winooski wasn’t able to score either. Winooski’s Sharras McIver lost the ball to Carter Hill who passed to Lincoln Michaud. Winooski got yet another foul when Sam Parris fouled Michaud. That was the fourth Winooski foul.

With 2:35 in the quarter and the score at 7-7, Hazen turned over the ball. Camden Benoit’s three-point attempt failed but Hazen fouled Winooski again. In just seconds, another three-point attempt failed, bouncing off front iron, and Carter Hill got the rebound. Rivard got a board to pull Hazen ahead 9-7.

Winooski again attempted a three-pointer that missed the board by a lot. Xavier Hill got the rebound, but Surma controlled the paint with a block and Winooski again moved down the court but a missed pass to Benoit went out of bounds. With thirty seconds left Winooski again attempted a three-pointer without success. The first quarter ended with the score at 9-7. While Hazen had three turnovers to Winooski’s one, Hazen had fourteen rebounds to Winooski’s four. 

The second quarter started with another three-point attempt by Winooski that was a no-go but Serma laid it in to tie up the game at 9-9. Rivard was fouled and got a free throw, bringing his total point count to 10.

Winooski once again tried a three-pointer that was a no-go. The score was 12-9 when Carter Hill fouled Winooski. The Spartans then fouled the Wildcats bringing their fouls to 6. A backcourt got the ball to Winooski but they had nowhere to go, and Lincoln Michaud ripped down the court to get a two-pointer. After a foul on Hazen and another miss by the Spartans, Rivard responded, leaving the score at 16-9.

The fouls began to rack up, first on Aasha Gould. Then he got fouled on a backdoor cut that led to Gould making one of two free-throw points. Both teams only got their next three points each off of free throws and both were in the bonus. 

Rivard used the glass to get the score to 21-13. Winooski’s Surma again attempted a three-pointer without success. Gould returned with a two-pointer, and with just two minutes remaining Winooski’s Muhudin Abdi tried another three-point attempt that was no good. 

Hazen turned over the ball, but that only got Winooski called for traveling and another three-point attempt by Trevon Bradley that was a no-go. Winooski finally broke that pattern with a three-pointer from MacIver, ending the second quarter at 23-16. Winooski could have had another three-pointer but missed the buzzer.

Hazen took first possession in the second half with Rivard repeating the two-pointer off his own rebound he had at the end of the second. Carter Hill laid it in for two, bringing the score 27-18, but MacIver responded by going coast to coast with his own lay-in.

Winooski missed yet another three-pointer and then turned over the ball to Xavier Hill. Lincoln Michaud got a lay-in. With the score at 29-20, Winooski once again suffered a turnover. The Spartans’ Ayden Johnson fouled and was out for the quarter, followed by another foul from Winooski. A scrum on the floor gave the ball back to the Spartans, and this time it was Hazen’s Michaud who fouled Surma. Surma’s free throw was no good, though, and a behind-the-back pass by Jadon Baker got the score to 31-20. 

Rivard was fouled. His free throws went nowhere either, and another scrum on the floor resulted. Winooski turned over the ball despite getting possession, and Bradley fouled Xavier Hill. 

Bradley picked Hill’s pocket A second brought the score within six points at the end of the third at 31-25. 

With a final quarter left, Gould blocked a McIver three-point attempt. Winooski got the ball and tried another three-pointer, this time from Haydn Bourgeois, and that also missed. Bourgeois was fouled and did not miss either free throw.

A Baker free throw followed by a Rivard rebound widened the gap to 33-27. Bourges launched a free throw that worked out to be an unintended pass to Hazen. Bradley missed a pull-up jump shot, and the resulting scrum saw most of both teams on the floor. Once again the possession went to Winooski.

A series of fouls were called on both teams and with the free throws, the score was 34-28. Surma got an offensive board and a put-back, narrowing Hazen’s lead dangerously to 34-30 with 1:37 left. A foul was called on Rivard, and Bradley got one of two free throws, narrowing the lead to 34-32.

Winooski had a turnover, then Hazen had one of their own. Parris narrowly missed a lay-up, slamming into the basket so hard he was on the floor for some time. 

Rivard was fouled by Surma as a result of that play and got both his free throws, putting the score at 36-32. With a minute left, the announcer came on the PA system asking fans not to run onto the floor. 

Tyler Rivard vs Daniel Surma

Hazen coach Aaron Hill took a timeout. Parris fouled Baker who got one of the two points from the charity stripe. The score stood at 37-34. Another scrum resulted and returned the ball to Winooski, but Carter Hill blocked Bradley’s attempt, and a second attempt by McIver for a two-pointer missed. 

In the final seconds of the game, Bradley stole the ball and launched it at the basket, with the ball hitting the front of the iron just as the buzzer sounded.