By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s boys basketball team ran away with a pair of non-conference games this past week dominating Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond on Tuesday, December 10, 70-38 and then duplicated the feat a few nights later on Friday routing University High of Urbana 69-29. Head coach Justin Bozarth bunch built big leads early in each contest and never looked back invoking the IHSA thirty-point fourth quarter running clock rule in both victories improving the Warriors record to 4-0 on the year.
Tuscola scored every which way possible finding the hoop in transition, in the paint and also outside the three-point arc. Super soph Jalen Quinn led the way in both scoring seventeen points in the win over ALAH and twenty-two more against Uni. He was good on seventeen of twenty-nine shots in the two game sweep.
Next up was Grant Hardwick who led the way outside the arc hitting five threes on his way to a combined twenty-one points, including sixteen points verse the Knights. Senior Ben Dixon reached double-digits, as did junior Cole Cunningham. Dixon did his damage against Arthur scoring ten points while Cunningham tossed in ten points in the victory over the Illineks. Jacob Kibler was a near miss in the both adding nine points to his season stat sheet verse Uni and eight points in the weeks opener. He also led the way on the boards hauling a combined nineteen rebounds.
ALAH 38 vs. Tuscola 70, Tuesday December 10
Dixon drained the first three of the night following the opening tip and Hardwick and Cunningham followed quickly with runners in transition as the Warriors opened up an early 7-0 lead on the Knights. Warrior senior Nick Williams ended the first frame the same way it started with a three ball giving Bozarth a 22-8 advantage at the end of the first eight minutes of action. He followed it up with another trey early in the second period and Hardwick followed suit with one of his own as the Warriors pushed the lead to twenty entering the break.
Tuscola was just as strong in the third stanza thanks to a pair of threes by Hardwick and one more by Dixon all but ending the hopes of the visiting Knights. Kibler and Quinn each added six points to the team totals in the frame as well while the Warriors limited ALAH to a pair of free throws setting the clock to full go entering the fourth on top by forty-one points 66-25. Quinn led the way in the steals department with six to his credit and shared top billing with Hardwick in the assist’s category notching five.
“We came out aggressive particularly on the defensive end. Thought our help side rotations were much improved,” stated the coach. “We’ve talked a lot about how we want a defensive identity. Our kids took a step in that right direction tonight.”
Urbana University High 29 vs. Tuscola 69, Friday December 13
Cunningham got the ball rolling with a ten-footer off the tip and Kibler followed with a put back and layup and the outcome was obvious as the Warriors ran off twenty-six of the first twenty-eight points in game. Quinn hit a trey and scored eleven of his game-high twenty-two points in the quarter and Kibler scored all nine of his helping the Warriors to a 26-4 lead at the first buzzer.
Williams and Donovan Chester started the second with buckets and Haven Hatfield and Rohan Patel followed points of their own as nine Warriors in all found there way into the official scorebook in the first sixteen minutes of the game. It didn’t change after the two teams returned to the floor in the third thanks to a pair of threes by Cunningham and one by Williams allowing Bozarth to work on his bench depth the rest of the way. Eleven players in all scored in the game for the third year coach and everyone on the twelve-man roster secured at least one rebound in the rout.
“We were able to jump out early,” Bozarth commented. “One of the things we walked away pleased about was our preparation and how the guys executed it despite the opponent. One of the things we’ve struggled with in the past is mentally preparing for all opponents.