By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola boys basketball team reached the quarter century mark in the win column collecting their sixth win in the Central Illinois Conference and their twenty-fifth win on the year overall with a 72-41 road victory over Sullivan this past Friday night. Ben Dixon bested his career best for the second consecutive game dropping a game high twenty-four points on the Redskins. Tuscola entered the final regular season skirmish riding a six-game winning streak and now will enter the post-season boasting a 25-3 record overall and a 6-1 mark in the CIC and a seven-game win streak.
Tuscola took the floor without their scoring leader Jalen Quinn. Quinn sat out the game due to illness forcing coach Justin Bozarth to alter the offensive setup, putting players in uncharted territory. They took pride in the next man up as three other boys in black joined Dixon posting double-digits point totals. Jacob Kibler was next in line posting twelve points to his stat sheet. Fellow senior Nick Williams and junior Cole Cunningham were right behind him each delivering ten points while Grant Hardwick was a near miss ending the night with nine points.
“As coaches we didn’t know what to expect going into the Sullivan game as guys had to move around to new positions with Jalen out,” stated the coach. “The guys responded and played pretty well throughout and had a few really nice runs in both halves.”
Tuscola opened a ten-point lead after one and increased to twelve entering the break and then ran away with it in the third behind a twenty-three-point outburst. Dixon scored eight points in the first six minutes of the game hitting his first of two threes in the game. Hardwick drained a trey as well in the frame and Kibler hit a pair of jumpers in the second boosting the offensive output. Dixon was on full display in the third scoring eleven points while Cunningham and Ben Teizzi each tickled the bottom of the nets from long range. Speaking of long range Tuscola posted three more three pointers in the final eight minutes of action. Dixon, Hardwick and Rohan Patel all were good on the deep ball.
“Ben Tiezzi played really well off the bench and Hardwick and Cunningham did a great job taking care of the basketball,” commented Bozarth. “Ben Dixon played his best game of the year and seems to be playing with a ton of confidence at the right time of the season.”
The JV ended their season in the win column in the prelim upending the Redskins 41-25. Rohan Patel was leading scorer for the third game in a row riding three treys to a fifteen-point showing. Next was Tiezzi with nine points followed by Preston Brown and Haven Hatfield who totaled eight and seven points respectively.
Tuscola is the third seed in their sub-sectional and the second seed in the Paxton Buckley Loda Regional. They drew a bye in round one and play the winner of the Gibson City, Clifton Central game in the semi-finals on Wednesday night. If they win waiting in the wings will most likely be the host Panthers with whom they split wins with during the regular season. Bozarth’s boys are 15-1 on the road this season and are averaging just over sixty points per game while allowing just fourty-six.
“We are really excited for the regional as there’s several good teams in Paxton this week,” stated the coach. “GCMS played us to a four-point game over Christmas and Clifton is closing in on twenty wins with everyone on their roster now back and healthy.”