By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola boy’s basketball team hasn’t played on their home floor since before the holidays traveling for eight straight games during which they ran off eight wins to remain unbeaten on the year at 15-0 overall. Justin Bozarth’s squad punctuated the extended road trip with a come from behind 66-58 win over the Unity Rockets this past Tuesday, January 14.
Jalen Quinn led the states tenth ranked team in 2A with a game-high twenty-four points despite a slow start. The second year player found his way to the charity stripe seven times in the game hitting ten of fourteen while finishing off four of eight from outside the arc. He also was second on the Warriors rebound list grabbing hauling in seven boards. Jacob Kibler was one better in the rebound department securing eight, three on the offensive end, twice putting one back in the pivotal fourth frame. He also tallied eight points on five of six from the floor.
Grant Hardwick reached double-digits as well adding fourteen point to his season stat sheet. The junior hit a pair of treys and also did some damage at the charity stripe sinking four of six. He drew the attention of a box and one Rocket defensive plan to open the game after posting a six-three and twenty-four point effort a week earlier against Clinton.
“It was a little different, Jalen usually draws the defensive schemes,” stated Bozarth. “It took us a little while to figure it out but when we did it paid off. We told Grant to stand out a half court forcing them to play us four on four and the rest of the guys took advantage of the one on one’s.”
Cole Cunningham struck first hitting a pair of threes in the initial two minutes of the contest and Kibler banged one in down low matching two treys from the Rockets making it 8-8 with just over two and a half minutes left in the first frame. Quinn then went to work scoring twelve points in the next four minutes three times tickling the bottom of the net from beyond the arc forcing the Rockets to change strategies. Hardwick without the extra attention made his move quick hitting a three of his own putting the Warriors up by eleven points 22-11. Nick Williams followed with a three off the bench but this time Unity answered with a three also fueling a six-point run climbing to within four points at the break down 29-2
Cunningham and Ben Dixon both hit threes after the half as the two area heavyweights traded baskets throughout the third. Donovan Chester was the seventh Warrior to enter the scorebook with a layup following a three by Hardwick pushing Bozarth’s bunch in front by six late in the period. Unity responded quickly with a 6-0 run sending it to the final eight minutes of action knotted at 49.
Quinn broke the tie quick finishing off a feed from Dixon but two quick buckets by the Rockets put them on top 54-51 with six minutes left in the game. Bozarth quickly called a time out and rallied the troops on both ends of the floor. The boys in black responded giving up just four points the rest of the way while scoring sixteen of their own. Kibler started the onslaught with a put-back, Quinn followed with a three and then shut the door converting three of his final four from the line. Tuscola was good on twenty-one of forty-eight from the field, accounting for eleven threes in the game.
“We are getting everyone’s best, they want to be the team that gives us our first loss,” stated the coach. “They have played a very strong schedule, had some key injuries and their record doesn’t depict how hard they play. It was a very physical game and we as coaches are very proud of they way the responded late in the game when we were down.”
The Warriors JV came out on the right side of the scoreboard also upending the records 51-33. Coach Jacob Hilgendorf leaned on double-digit efforts from Rohan Patel and Ben Tiezzi. The duo combined for a pair of threes and twenty-seven points scoring fourteen and thirteen points respectively. Eight players in all found their way on the score sheet delivering a solid fifteen of twenty outing at the free throw line.