By Lenny Sementi
Senior Grant Hardwick and his buddies in black and gold didn’t know two weeks ago if they would ever take the floor again in historic TCHS gym but this past Friday that all changed as head boys basketball coach Justin Bozarth boys played their opener. The fourth year coach escorted his squad onto the floor against a good young Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond team at about 7:30 p.m. with what was billed as the first basketball game in the state since the COVID postponement.
Things were different to say the least; players donned masks the entire time, socially distanced while on the bench and came to the game in their uniforms with no locker rooms available. Per IHSA rules to jump ball to start the game and there was an under five minute timeout in each quarter for players to catch their breath but it was basketball and you could see the happiness in the eyes of guys like Hardwick.
The Warriors got their first points and their first three pointer of the year from junior Jalen Quinn helping Tuscola to a 10-9 advantage after the first stanza. Both teams quickly shook off the rust trading points four times in the first frame before Bozarth’s bunch took over after the under five timeout moving in front 7-4 on the Quinn three ball and never trailed after that.
Haven Hatfield scored the first four of the second frame before Hardwick went to work. The senior guard scored 10 straight points and 13 of 16 fueling a 23 point frame by the Warriors. Rohan Patel added to the totals stepping outside the arc for a three let in the half and Quinn put the cherry on top with a half courter at the buzzer giving Tuscola a 33-14 lead at the break.
“In the second quarter my teammates found me and I converted. My teammates have confidence in me and I have confidence in them,” Hardwick added. “I didn’t realize I scored 10 straight, in the game you don’t really think about that, you’re just trying to get the job done, there are definitely some things we need to improve on, but at the end of the day we got the job done.”
Hardwick ended his night with 15 points, a team-best ten rebounds, five steals and four assists. Quinn led all with 18 points and also chipped four boards, six assists and two steals. “Grant was incredible for us in the second quarter and his shooting settled us into the ballgame,” stated Bozarth. “Both teams were adjusting for a quarter and a half just kicking off the rust and returning to competition. Of all the guys who played in that game, we felt like Grant was the one who was able find his footing first and that propelled our team to a nice run in the second quarter.”
“Jalen’s stat line at the end of the game was solid with 18 points and an assist to turnover ratio of three to one. It speaks to the standards that he holds for himself when he can have stats like that yet he feels like he didn’t play up to his potential.”
Hatfield added four more to his totals in the third and Patel drained another trey in the fourth as the Warrior cruised down the stretch to win number one. Hatfield ended his day with 13 points on five of seven from the floor and three of four from the line while Patel hit two of four from three on his way to double digits as well.
“Haven was probably the unsung hero of the game,” Bozarth commented. “Here he is in his first varsity start and we tell him prior to the game that you’re going to guard Kaden Feagin who is most likely the most athletic kid we will see on the court this year. Haven’s willingness to compete for defensive rebounds was instrumental in getting Feagin into foul trouble. It seemed like all runs that we went on were at times when Feagin was on the bench.”