By Lenny Sementi
When head coach Justin Bozarth took over Tuscola’s boys basketball team he set out to move the program into the forefront of the local hoops landscape, and this season he took a big step in that direction. It was a season of firsts for Bozarth and the boys in black and gold.
The Warriors reached the 20-win mark for the first time since the 2006 season, ending the year with a 20-9 mark overall. They also captured the first Class 2A regional crown in school history, which was the first regional championship since 2008. Bozarth’s first season with the Warriors started late due to a post-season run by the football team. But, despite the late start and missed time, the coach started putting his stamp on the brand.
This year he leaned on a strong group of four seniors and an energetic young influence to turn some heads. The Warriors opened the year with a 5-0 run and entered the holiday break with a 9-1 record. A 2-0 start to the Holiday Hoopla had coaches around the court commenting on how this is the best Tuscola team to take the floor in a number of years and that freshman Jalen Quinn was a difference maker.
Seniors Will Little, Brayden VonLanken, Cade Kresin and Luke Sluder accepted the youngster into the starting line up and showed him the ropes. It didn’t take long for the new comer to hit full stride en-route to a historic freshman campaign that included a honorable mention nod to the Illinois Coaches Association All State team, a first team All Conference selection, the free throw award, the teams rebound award, all tourney accolades at the Hoopla and the CIC tourney, all area recognition from the News Gazette and Herald and Review as well as the team’s Most Valuable Player award. He led the team in scoring accounting for 465 points, rebounded 184 boards, tallied 34 three pointers, and dropped 108 free throws.
VonLanken was a second team All CIC competitor. The big man came up big late in wins over St. Joe and Unity in the regional run. He was second in scoring, posting 387 points to the team’s stat sheet and also grabbed 135 rebounds. He shared the Warrior Spirit award with classmate Luke Sluder. Will Little ran the point and was Bozarth’s shut down defender earning him the team’s Defensive Award. He swiped 70 steals in the 30-game campaign, averaging just over two a game. He also donated on offense scoring 173 points while dishing out 65 assists. Kresin poured in 112 points and hauled in 114 rebounds and also defended the hoop totaling 16 blocks.
The full story can be found in the Wednesday, March 27 edition of The Tuscola Journal.