By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s Nick Williams turned in the best week of his basketball life posting back-to-back career bests during Warrior wins Tuesday and Wednesday before putting a punctuating mark on it with a clutch go ahead three ball against Clinton on Saturday evening. The senior guard stepped outside the arc in the corner putting Tuscola on top by one with just over a minute left in the contest helping the Warriors sneak past a motivated Maroons squad for the second time this season.
Justin Bozarth’s boys in black wrapped up a four-game week with a 38-34 victory in the opening round of the Central Illinois Conference in Moweaqua. Williams donated big minutes to the cause after the break as the third-seeded Warriors were able to survive and advance past the sixth-seeded Maroons despite a tough night shooting.
“This game was a struggle from the start for us,” stated the coach. “You could feel the sense of fatigue on our part from a long week and Clinton’s kids played with a belief that they could beat us after our previous matchup.”
Jalen Quinn turned in a fifteen-point effort leading the way as the Warriors bounced back from just their second loss of the season the night prior losing to a very good Paxton Buckley Loda team. Quinn even had his struggles but came up big when needed scoring all six of Tuscola’s points in the third frame. He turned in a well-rounded effort collecting a team-high seven-rebounds while also distributing four-assists and swiping four-steals.
Seniors Ben Dixon, Jacob Kibler and Williams were next on the list with six-points apiece. Cole Cunningham followed with five points including a deep ball early in first frame. The junior shooting guard was the only other Warrior to hit a three besides Williams, who drained a pair. Kibler and Dixon followed Cunningham with runners helping the Warriors build a 13-7 lead after one.
Clinton held Tuscola scoreless for the first four minutes while running off eleven of the first thirteen points of the frame. Williams answered with his first trey as the clocked neared zero knotting the game at eighteen heading into the break. Quinn scored quick in the third and then hit two more buckets in the period but that was it for Tuscola as the Maroons built a six-point advantage on the back of a pair of six-point runs heading to the fourth on top 30-24.
Grant Hardwick hit both ends of a one-and-one early in the final stanza and Quinn put one back and finished off an old fashioned three with just under three-minutes left on the clock cutting Clinton’s lead to one 32-31. Enter Williams and his three from the corner giving Bozarth’s squad its first lead since early in the second half. Dixon followed with a pair from the charity stripe and a big defensive rebound at the thirty-second mark. Kibler shut the door with two free throws earning the Warriors a spot in the semi-finals against the second-seeded Bulldogs from St Teresa.
“The lack of motivation and intensity falls on us coaches,” commented Bozarth. “We’ve got to make sure our guys get up for every game regardless of who and when we are playing or how tired we our. I am confident we will be better. You do this long enough, you realize at the end of the day, every bad win is a lot better than any loss.”