By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s boys’ basketball team kicked open the door of the Central Illinois Conference tournament Saturday, Jan. 27. The eighth seeded Warriors took full advantage of their home court and shocked the league and avenged a 20-point loss a few weeks back to Shelbyville by beating the top seeded Rams in the opening game of the CIC tournament 53-46.
The victory can be called a Cinderella story, a bracket buster, or down goes the Rams, but putting it in truthful terms coach Justin Bozarth and his staff (Bob Taylor, Luke Johnson, Matt Kincaid) devised a plan to put their players in the best position to be successful, and the boys in black executed it flawlessly in a game that saw the Warriors outscore the Rams in three of the four frames.
Tuscola in their road black uniforms due to the lower seed posted a seven-point run to end the first frame taking a three-point advantage they would not relinquish until the 2:41 mark of the fourth frame. Tyler Meinhold started the run with a runner off a feed from Dalton Hoel who then found Cale Sementi in the low post on the Warriors’ next possession. Meinhold capped the run with a three ball then shared the wealth finding Braydon VonLanken in the low post to open the second quarter. VonLanken attacked the paint again the next trip down the court as Tuscola’s run hit double digits before the Rams stopped the bleeding.
Defensively the Warriors utilized a one-two-two zone with the speedy Hoel at the top and Vonlanken and Sementi at the bottom. The run outs of the big men forced misses on threes, while Hoel harassed the top the key. Tuscola ended the second like the first as Hoel and Haden Cothron combined for three treys opening up the paint for a Sementi jumper giving coach Bozarth an eight-point lead heading into the break on top 24-16.
Meinhold and Hoel drained threes to start the third putting the Warriors up by 14, but this time the Rams fired back. Shelbyville went to work at the charity stripe sinking 6 of 7 from the line to fuel a 10-point run cutting the lead to four heading into the final eight minutes of action with the Warriors on top 30-26. Cothron was big off the bench early in the fourth with five quick points on a runner and a three ball, and VonLanken donated a three as well as the two teams started to heat up offensively. Shelbyville took their turn outside the arc hitting three threes midway through the stanza to take their first lead since the first quarter 41-40. VonLanken found Sementi, his partner in the post down low, to put the Warriors in front. Sementi then found Luke Sluder with an outlet pass following a rebound and the guard went coast to coast for a bucket.
The full story can be found in the Wednesday, Jan. 31 edition of The Tuscola Journal.