By Lenny Sementi
Third year head boys basketball coach Justin Bozarth and his guys in black gold started the 2019-2020 campaign with a come from behind victory over a speedy Okaw Valley squad 61-58. Tuscola was the at the wrong end of the scoreboard following the first three frames but turned up the heat on defense late in the game and delivered twenty-one points in the final eight minutes of action securing win number one on the year.
Tuscola was the last area team to take the court and the lack of court time against an opponent other than themselves was evident early. The Warriors turned the ball over six times in the first quarter allowing the Timberwolves to build an eight-point advantage at the first buzzer 21-13. “It went how you’d expect the first game to go,” Bozarth quipped. “We were sloppy at times with the ball and then other times we felt pretty good about our play, we just needed to shake off the rust and settle in.”
Senior Jacob Kibler drained an early fifteen-footer and Grant Hardwick and Jalen Quinn both hit threes in the first for Tuscola as it was evident early this was a game that would be won on the perimeter. Hardwick added two more threes to the stat sheet in the second period and Cole Cunningham sank his first of the season midway thru the stanza but it was not enough. Tuscola hit five from down town but the T-Wolves were two better accounting for seven long-range salvos taking the lead into the break on top 33-28. Hardwick scored ten of his thirteen points in the first sixteen minutes of the game ending the night with a perfect four for for effort from three point land.
The two teams traded points most of the third frame. Quinn and Cunningham each hit threes but two late Okaw Valley daggers from where else but outside the arc increased the home teams lead to nine entering the fourth on top of the Warriors 49-40. When it was all said and done the two teams combined for twenty-two threes in the contest connecting on an astonishing twenty-two of thirty-six shots from the arc and beyond.
Bozarth elected to turn up the heat on defense extending it out and Kibler and his buddies responded forcing five turnovers in the final six minutes of the game. Quinn and Hardwick each hit threes following the first two miscues to cut into the lead. And Quinn put the Warriors in front for good with another pair from the promise land to give Tuscola a lead they would not relinquish. The super soph led all with twenty-five points on nine of eleven from the floor hitting five of six threes. He also grabbed a team best six rebounds and dished out four assists.
“We were much better in the second half forcing fifteen turnovers after the break,” commented the coach. “One of the things we talked about this year is that we had to commit to taking more charges. And I was really pleased with our performance in that regard. We took six including five in our fourth quarter comeback. We shot the ball really well for the first time out. Obviously, though we are not going to shoot it that well each and every night out so we have to get better defensively.”
Tuscola moves to 1-0 on the year with the victory. The Warriors will host a pair of games this week welcoming Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond to town on Tuesday and University High on Friday before traveling to Fisher for a date with the Bunnies on Saturday.
Assistant coach Jacob Hilgendorf’s team dominated the JV contest wining 60-31 behind a game best fourteen points from Ben Tezzi. Haven Hatfield was next in line with ten points followed by Peyton Armstrong with nine points and Preston Brown with eight points. James Parsley was tops in the rebound department with seven boards while Rajan Patel notched five and Hatfield five.