By Lenny Sementi
Head Tuscola boys’ basketball coach Justin Bozarth isn’t hiding any glass slippers in his closet at home. The rags-to-riches Cinderella story wasn’t what his team had in mind when they finished the regular season with 17 wins. The Warriors took exception to the thought of them being underdogs entering the post season as the seventh seed, and it showed as the boys in black upended the sub-sectionals top seeded Spartans of St. Joe Ogden in the semi-final of the Heritage Regional.
A consistent effort on the offensive end and a solid defense proved to be the difference. Tuscola scored at least 15 points in three of the four frames and forced the Spartans into bad shots with a pressure defense led out front by senior Will Little and versatility down low from junior Jacob Kibler and Cade Kresin. That allowed Bozarth to use some different schemes throughout the game before settling into their 2-3 zone late in the contest. The duo combined for four of the Warriors’ five steals in the game.
“What a game! It was a great high school atmosphere,” Bozarth commented following the final buzzer. “Our crowd was electric, and our kids fed off of that. SJO has some really talented kids, and Will (Little) and Jake (Kibler) hounded them on defense.”
Senior post Brayden VonLanken and freshman slasher Jalen Quinn provided the offensive firepower with an inside-out attack. VonLanken occupied the paint scoring 18 points on 7 of 12 from the field. The big man grabbed a team best seven rebounds, four on the offensive side of the court, three of which he deposited in the hoop for points.
“Braydo was a force inside, so much credit goes to coach Jacob Hilgendorf and Coach Luke Johnson for the work that they put in with our posts every day. Lastly, Jalen hit some mid-range jumpers off drives and made some plays in the half court that not a lot of high school players can make.”
Quinn took advantage of the attention to VonLanken down low and SJO’s man-to-man defense to dribble his way past the Spartans’ front line early before hitting pull up jumpers late en-route to a game high 26 points. He was good on 50 percent of his shots from the floor and was a perfect 10 for 10 at the free throw line, including six daggers in the final six minutes of the game.
The full story can be found in the Wednesday, Feb. 27 edition of The Tuscola Journal.