Russo and Boyer shine the light during opening game against VGHS

By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s girls basketball team started off the 2021 campaign with a bang erasing a ten point deficit with under four minutes to play to a 43-40 victory over Villa Grove. They leaned on the post play of senior Marissa Russo in the paint early and a big surge by sophomore Ella Boyer late in the game. 

Russo turned in a double-double grabbing 11 rebounds while also scoring ten points, eight of which came in the first two frames in the game. Boyer who hit a pair of threes down the stretch scored six of her team best 15 points in the final three minutes of the contest securing the win for long time bench boss Tim Kohlbecker. 

“The adrenaline and the speed of the game late made things go easier, especially when we started pressing which led to turnovers,” commented Boyer. “When shooting the threes, I had confidence in myself, and my teammate gave me the ball believed me.”

Seniors Brynn Tabeling and Hope Dietrich also were part of the comeback each adding four points to the team totals in Tuscola’s 15 point fourth quarter. “Ella had a fantastic game on both ends of the floor,” stated the coach. “Marissa was solid on the boards and Brynn as always plays with great intensity. We increased the defensive pressure late and it paid off.” 

Russo scored the first points of the year on a short jumper and Sophie Kremitzki hit the first trey for the Warriors a few minutes into the game as the Warriors ran out to a 9-3 advantage. Villa Grove looked to Kyleigh Block late in the first frame to tie it up nine all at the first buzzer. The Blue Devils scored first in the second capturing their first lead of the game and one they would hold until Boyer stepped outside the arc for a three with two minutes left in the contest to knot it at 38. She backed it on the next possession with another long ball to put the Warriors in front for good. It was her third of the game the second year player hit one more with a buzzer beater to end the first half. 

VG built a double digit advantage after running off the first eight points of the final stanza. That’s when Kohlbecker looked to his defense to bring them back, applying full court pressure forcing 12 straight Devil turnovers leading to 12 Warrior points. None bigger than a Tabeling steal and score following a Hope Dietrich bucket with three minutes left fueling the comeback. Dietrich saved the best for last scoring all four of her points in the final four minutes of the game. Tabeling and Dietrich led all in the steals department swiping five and four respectively as the Warrior forced over 25 turnovers.

“Our team defense was very good in the fourth quarter,” Russo said. “With less than four minutes left, down by ten, we started pressing, kept pushing the ball and were able to come back, get the lead and hold on.”

After watching the film Kohlbecker put the defensive pressure late high on his list as well. “Our kids and coaches were so excited and happy to be playing, and we knew it would be sloppy basketball, and it was!” the coach stated. “Nevertheless being down ten with not a lot of time left, our girls found another gear, upped the defensive pressure and found a way to win. Great resolve!”

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