By Aaron Retherford
His role has varied throughout his four years with the Williamstown boys basketball team, but Hunter McLaughlin ended his high school basketball career the way most expected — leading the Blue Devils to their fourth straight Vermont Div. III championship.
McLaughlin helped Williamstown pull away in the second half and teammate Garet Poulin kept fourth-seeded Rivendell at bay with a perfect night from the free-throw line as the third-seeded Blue Devils claimed a 76-65 victory Saturday night at the Barre Auditorium.
During Williamstown’s streak of three consecutive state titles, the Blue Devils were rarely threatened in the finals, winning their championships by an average of more than 20 points. Through the first half, the Orford, New Hampshire school looked like it might provide Williamstown (20-4) with a real test.
Kolin Huntington put the Raptors ahead 17-14 with seven minutes left in the first half, forcing a Williamstown timeout. The Blue Devils regrouped and rallied to take a 33-29 advantage at the break.
When the teams exited halftime, McLaughlin quickly took over and added to his 11 first-half points. A McLaughlin steal and basket increased Williamstown’s lead to double digits for the first time on the night, 49-39, with 1:30 to go in the third.
McLaughlin’s 11th point of the quarter pushed the gap to 53-39. However, a quick 6-1 run, capped by a Huntington bucket as the third-quarter buzzer sounded, cut the gap to 54-45, heading into the fourth.
Rivendell (19-5) would get no closer thanks in part to Poulin’s clutch performance at the charity stripe. Poulin was 13-for-13 from the line, including 10-for-10 in the final quarter as he finished with 18 points. McLaughlin surpassed his season average of 21 points and led all scorers with 27, while sophomore Eric Hulbert chipped in with 10.
Huntington paced the Raptors with 19 points. Shamus Peyton and Zack Gray added 18 and 12 points respectively.