By Lenny Sementi
Justin Bozarth’s boys in black utilized their long range prowess draining eleven-threes en-route to a dominating thirty-six point victory dropping a scrappy Meridian squad 91-55 capturing third place in the Central Illinois Conference tournament this past Friday. Grant Hardwick and Jalen Quinn each scored a game-high twenty-two points in the lopsided contest setting the tone early combining for twenty-two of the Warriors twenty-nine points in the first quarter.
Six players in all scored points from outside the arc. Right behind Hardwick was sharp shooter Nick Williams. The senior sixth man drained three long-range salvos adding nine points to his stat line. Cole Cunningham and Hardwick both hit three in the second frame as the Warriors scoring explosion continued scoring twenty-five points in the eight-minute period delivering a 54-28 lead at the break. Cunningham was good on five of eight from the floor contributing twelve points to the team totals.
Williams extended the long-range onslaught into the third quarter hitting two more treys as Tuscola eclipsed the twenty-five-point mark in a frame for the third consecutive stanza ending any hopes of a Hawks comeback. The boys in black entered the final eight minutes of actions up 79-49 invoking a running clock for the rest of the contest. The damage done at the arc wasn’t over as Rohan Patel and Payton Armstrong came of the bench firing each donating a three to the cause slamming the door on a third place finish.
Jacob Kibler did his damage inside scoring twelve points on a solid six of ten from the field. He also was strong on the boards collecting five rebounds. Quinn also found his way to five and shared the ball on offense delivering a game-high six assists. “We shot the ball really well tonight,” stated the coach. “But we also did a great job taking care of the ball only giving it away five times while limiting their second chances on offense. Rebounding and physicality around the hoop was a big emphasis in practice this week following the St Teresa loss and it showed.”
St Teresa not only grabbed more boards in the semi-final game on Tuesday they secured eighteen on the offensive end one more that Tuscola’s total at both ends of the floor. Despite the differential the Warriors were knotted with the Bulldogs at forty-one after three and within one of the lead with under six minutes left on the clock. From that point it was all St. T scoring twelve of the last fourteen points to advance to the title game.
Quinn scored eleven of his game-high twenty points in the first eight minutes of the game as the two CIC heavyweights traded points on their way to a 13-13 tie after one. Cunningham and Williams matched threes by the Bulldogs early in the second but St. T closed the frame with a six-point run on the back of second chance points to take a 30-23 lead into the half. Quinn hit two runners to open the third and Hardwick followed with a three erasing the seven-point deficit in the first two minutes of the third to make it 30-30. Cunningham countered a pair of Bulldog treys with two of his own midway thru the stanza and Hardwick closed the period with a trip outside the arc late to tie it up at forty-one all entering the fourth. Tuscola went cold hitting one of twelve down the stretch ending the hopes of a shot at Central A&M in the championship game.
Tuscola ended the tourney with a 2-1 record collecting their twentieth win of the season. They moved to 20-3 on the year and enter the second half of the CIC regular season schedule boasting a 3-1 record in the league. The Warriors will look to avenge loss to the Bulldogs at home on Tuesday, then host Meridian on Friday before traveling to the Altamont shootout on Saturday afternoon.