By Lenny Sementi
After beating a strong Meridian squad in the opening round of the Central Illinois Conference tournament Justin Bozarth’s boys’ basketball team earned the right at a second shot at state ranked Central A&M in the semi-finals. And, at the half Bozarth and his boys in black were right where they planned to be–in a low-scoring, physical defensive showdown. The Raiders, however, had other aspirations, and in the second half they executed two runs to open a tight contest with a 35-point outburst in the final 16 minutes to secure their spot in the league tourney championship.
“We overcame an early deficit and were forced the pace of the game in the first half,” Bozarth said. “It was tied with under four to play in the half, and we gave up just 19 points, which is where we wanted to be. Even well into the third we were right with them. They took advantage of a few mistakes late and got out and ran, and you just can’t let them do that.”
Jalen Quinn led the way for Bozarth on offense by scoring 11 points on 4 of 11 from the field, hitting twice from three-point land. He also grabbed five rebounds in the game and swiped three steals twice, going coast-to-coast for scores. Next up were Jacob Kibler and Will Little who ended the night with 8 and 7 points, respectively. Little hit a pair from the field early and a three late and also led the team in rebounds from his guard position. Kibler hit a three, as well, grabbed three rebounds and came away with two steals.
Little drove baseline two minutes into the game for Tuscola’s first bucket then hit a runner two possessions later before the Raiders were able to score making it 4-0 Warriors. A&M tallied the next seven before Cole Cunningham hit Jacob Kibler with a half-court pass that resulted in a bucket with 10 seconds left in the frame to knot it at seven after one period of action.
Cade Kresin hit a quick jumper to open the third, and Kibler stepped outside the arc for a three as the two teams traded points. A&M forced turnovers on consecutive possessions at the four-minute mark of the period and fueled a 12-2 run that carried into the final period, ultimately, spelling doom for the Warriors. Little drained a three with under six to play, making it interesting, but another run by the Raiders ended the suspense. Tuscola fell to the third place contest where they played St. Teresa. Bozarth’s teams moves to 13-9 overall on the year with the and 1-1 in the tourney.