By Lenny Sementi
Cole Cunningham came off the bench early in both halves and turned in maybe the best game of his career, but it was not enough for coach Justin Bozarth’s Warriors to pull out a victory against a scrappy Tolono Unity squad.
The Warriors limited the rivals from the north to under 40 percent from the floor, but the Rockets five threes in the middle two stanzas and 10 points from the charity stripe allowed them to sneak out of historic Tuscola gym with the victory.
Unity reached deep into its bag of tricks Tuesday, Jan. 8, utilizing a box and one zone to slow down freshman Jalen Quinn en-route to a 53-43 victory over the Warriors. The two rivals traded buckets and leads throughout the first half, but a 10-point run in the third by Unity was too much for Tuscola to overcome.
“It’s the first gimmick defense we have seen all season,” commented Bozarth. “With Jalen’s success we knew it was going to show up at some point, overall though I thought we still got good looks at the hoop, but in the end shots just didn’t fall for us tonight.”
Cunningham led all Warriors with nine points, hitting a pair of threes while connecting on 3 of 4 from the charity stripe. He was also strong on the boards grabbing four rebounds. Next in line was Quinn and senior point guard Will Little. The duo scored eight points each, combining for 16 points. Brayden VonLanken was just one back adding seven points to his season stats. Jacob Kibler checked in with six points, but he truly showed up on the rebound chart hauling in a game high 13 boards to go with a pair of steals.
Quinn found his way to the line twice in the first three minutes of the game despite the extra attention focused on him, but for the remainder of the first half they denied him the ball. Little picked up the slack early draining a three midway through one and then found VonLanken and Grant Hardwick late in the period handing Bozarth a one-point lead at the first buzzer 10-9.
The two teams traded leads five times in the first 10 minutes of the game until Unity scored on second chance baskets three times late in the second posting a 8-2 run that put the Rockets on top by three at the break 25-22 they would never relinquish. Tolono hit a three to open the third, and Little answered with a runner, but treys by the Rockets on consecutive possessions and two more buckets pushed their lead to nine points entering the fourth. Unity hit just two buckets in the last seven minutes of the contest but sealed the deal at the line connecting on 10 of 13 from the line, dropping the Warriors to 10-5 overall and 5-2 in the friendly confines.
The full story can be found in the Wednesday, Jan. 16 edition of The Tuscola Journal.