By Lenny Sementi
Head boy’s basketball coach Justin Bozarth and his boys in black turned in one of the best seasons in Warrior history. Seniors Jacob Kibler, Ben Dixon, Nick Williams, Silas Hortin, Cameron Hohmann and Max Wyninger were the backbone of the ‘Build the Brand’ mentality instilled by Bozarth during a year in which the Warriors notched not only twenty-six wins but the first Monticello Holiday Hoopla title in program history and their second consecutive twenty-win season.
The win total elevated them to rarified air as only four Warrior squads total have reached that number or surpassed it, the last time occurred during the 1999-2000 season. Bozarth’s bunch fell just four times total this winter but avenged all but one of the defeats a loss to one of the states best in Central A&M. The setback was their lone loss in the Central Illinois Conference capturing second place in the league posting a 6-1 record. The Warriors leaned on its offense shooting over 46 percent from the field inside the arc, and 34 percent from outside it hitting 219 three’s in all.
“We had a really successful campaign when you take a step back and truly analyze it, first team in school history to win the Hoopla and one of only four teams in school history to win 26 or more games (since 1907-08.),” stated the coach. “Our loss in the regional final to Paxton was obviously not the way we wanted it to end, but that leaves all the more motivation for next years teams. One of our goals for our seniors each year is did they leave the program better than they found it? Without hesitation, this group accomplished that and then some.”
Super soph and division one recruit Jalen Quinn led the way scoring a team best 599 points, averaging just over twenty points per game connecting on 56 percent of his shots from the field. He drained 45 threes and was good on 126 of 169 from the line en-route to surpassing the 1,000 point mark for his career and ended up with 1,064-total landing him just over 500 points away from Nick Bates school record. He was also strong in other stats categories grabbing a team best 211 rebounds while accounting for a team best 115 assists and 80 steals all earning him the teams MVP award.
Senior Jacob Kibler was next up on the scoring list dropping in a career best 293 points scoring just under ten per game. He was also strong on the boards scoring 194 rebounds and many times drew the oppositions top offensive threat on the defensive end. Classmate Ben Dixon saved his best for last posting career bests in three of the last four games of the regular season on his way to 183 points, 114 boards and a team best 44 blocks. He was also strong from distance hitting 44 percent or 13 of 29 from three-point land. Another fourth year player Williams also did his share of the damage from long range. The Warrior sixth man tallied 98 points, 90 of which came from threes sinking just under 40 percent of his attempts.
Speaking of the arc two juniors made a living from down town. Cole Cunningham led the charge with a team best 54 treys scoring 248 points, 8.2 per game while landing one short of the century mark in the rebound department donating 99 to the cause. His classmate Grant Hardwick was just two back adding 52 threes to his career stat sheet. He tossed in 264 points, scoring 8.8 per game and dished out a second best 62 assists. A third junior Donovan Chester saw his playing time increase as the season progressed and should be a force for the Warriors next season with the departure of Kibler and Dixon in the middle.
“Jalen had a MVP type season winning all our statistic-based awards capturing both the rebound award and the free throw award. Cole and Jake shared the defensive award as voted on by coaches and teammates. Each guy this year guarded the opponent’s best offensive players night in and night out. Nick Williams won the coveted Warrior award. This also is voted on by coaches and players and goes to the hardest worker, most loyal, most enthusiastic, and most positive.”