By Lenny Sementi
When first-year head boys’ basketball coach Justin Bozarth was given the reins to the program early last summer the Tuscola alum hit the ground running. Bozarth made it a point to build the Warrior Basketball brand and made his way to the weight room in the mornings last summer with the boys and also set up games to coincide with open gyms.
Although the record is not what he or the team envisioned at the start of the year, the program took steps in the right direction as the season progressed. Steps that will payoff in the coming years. They knocked off a very good Oakwood squad in the Monticello Holiday Hoopla to capture fifth place and took down top seeded Shelbyville in the first round of the Central Illinois Conference tournament.
He leaned on his senior class, which included three fourth-year players Dalton Hoel, Tyler Meinhold and Cale Sementi along with a fourth year senior manager Brody Cramer. Cramer was the backbone of the program taking care of equipment, running the clock during practice, and helping with videotaping.
All three players donated in big ways. Hoel captured the free throw award and was at the top of both the steals (45) and assists (298) columns. Meinhold was a deep threat for the second straight year and led the squad in threes draining 50 on the year, outdistancing the next best by 23. Sementi was the team’s rim defender leading the team in blocks swatting 43 shots, 37 more than the next player. He also owned the highest field goal percentage making 49 percent of his shots from the floor.
“I’m proud of our four seniors (Hoel, Sementi, Meinhold, Kramer-mgr) for laying the foundation of our program,” stated coach Bozarth. “The season didn’t necessarily end with the win/loss combination that those guys were looking for, but they’re leaving this place with positive momentum as we look to the future. We are excited about our coming years and it wouldn’t be possible without these four guys committing to changing the culture.”
The squad’s MVP resides in the junior class. Brayden VonLanken was the only double-digit scorer for the Warriors averaging 11 points per contest. He scored a team high 261 points, making a team best 33 percent from beyond the arc and was also second best in the rebounding department grabbing 132 total. Speaking of boards, the team leader and award winner was VonLanken’s classmate Luke Sluder. Sluder secured 164 rebounds, averaging 7.5 per game.
The full story can be found in the Wednesday, March 14 edition of The Tuscola Journal.