By Sam Jefferson, Community News Service
Harwood basketball fans had much to cheer for in the Wednesday, February 15, doubleheader as both the boys’ and girls’ varsity teams took home victories in their senior night games.
With their high school’s gym closed for construction due to flooding last fall, the Highlanders have had to travel to opponents’ gyms for every game this season. On Wednesday, February 15, Harwood got to pack the stands for senior night at the Barre City Auditorium, a venue traditionally reserved for playoff games.
Short ceremonies acknowledging senior players preceded each tipoff. The girls’ team will graduate eight players this year and nine will move on from the boys’ team.
Senior girls’ players this year are Ciera Fiaschetti, Mia Lapointe, Cierra McKay (captain), Sadie Nordle, Ayden Parrish, Cameron Rocheleau, Jill Rundle (captain) and Abby Young (captain).
Senior boys’ players this year are Lewis Clapp (captain), Aiden Dalley, Parker Davey, Cole Flaherty, Cole Hill (captain), Nathan Kudriavetz, Iyah Lavit (captain), Boon Maher and Cooper Olney.
HU 42, U-32 18
In the first quarter, head coach Tom Young put his team in a 2-3 zone, a formation primarily used to pressure passing lanes, exploit weak outside shooting and generate fast breaks for easy buckets. This approach flustered the Raiders, as the Highlanders wreaked havoc guarding on the perimeter and caused multiple turnovers. The Highlanders struggled at the start with their offense, but their defensive strategy allowed them to end the first quarter with a 4-2 lead.
“We’ve really been perfecting the zone,” senior forward Abby Young said after the game. “We’re getting better at it every game, and we’re working on getting out to outside shooters, too. It all really came together in this one.”
With 1:30 left to go in the second quarter, they turned three separate Raiders’ turnovers into transition layups to finish with a 19-7 lead. “Those quick transition points were key,” Young said. “Our defense creates our offense, and so that really helped us get going.”
The Highlanders' hard-earned momentum continued until the final buzzer sounded, resulting in a 24-point blowout.
Sophomore guards Eloise Lilley and senior Ayden Parrish started many of the fastbreaks, combining for 10 steals on the night. Junior forward Quinn Nelson added a huge impact off the bench, recording a double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
The win was the 12th for the Highlanders. “It’s truly just been an amazing group this year,” Young said. “I’ve never had a team work so harmoniously and so much of that has to do with this senior group.”
The Highlanders went into the Division II playoffs as the No. 4 seed. They faced No. 13 seed Springfield in the first game played in Harwood’s newly-replaced gym floor on Tuesday, February 21. The Highlanders came away with the win, 58-24, and will progress in the playoffs.
HU 55, WILLIAMSTOWN 45
With Harwood’s offense scuffling out the gate against Williamstown, coach Jay Bellows’ team controlled what they could: their effort on the defensive end.
“I think the slow start mostly came from everyone getting used to a new court and adjusting to the rims,” Bellows said after the game. “Once that happened, the offense came easier.”
Senior Lewis Clapp led the team in the second quarter, pouring in a quick six points to help eventually push the score to 27-24 in Harwood’s favor at halftime.
The Blue Devils took the lead back at the start of the fourth quarter with a 5-0 run to make it 39-38. But then, in the next possession, Harwood junior guard Tobey Bellows rose on the right wing for a three-ball that touched nothing but net — sending Harwood fans into a frenzy.
The big-time bucket by Bellows galvanized the Highlanders, and the team held tight to the lead on their way to a 55-45 victory.
“That shot felt great, but tonight was all about the seniors,” said Bellows, who finished with 15 points. “It was great to find Cole [Hill] and Cooper [Olney], who are both great cutters to score.”
Olney, a senior guard, also finished with 15 points. Driving to the hoop on multiple occasions, he’d twist through the Blue Devils' interior defense, leaping against outstretched arms for layups.
“It was really cool — it obviously doesn't have the same effect as our home court, but it was really great to experience it here,” senior forward Nathan Kudriavetz said.
The Highlanders got past the U-32 Raiders on Saturday, 48-44, then defeated Lake Region 49-31 on Monday, February 20. The team has two more games on their regular season schedule, Thetford Academy on Thursday, February 23 and Spaulding on Saturday, February 25.
Community News Service is a collaboration with the University of Vermont’s Reporting & Documentary Storytelling program.