By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola Junior Jalen Quinn broke out on the offensive end early in a game boasting two of the top teams in Central Illinois last Tuesday the second. Quinn scored the first 17 points for the Warriors on his way to 32 points in the game which in turn opened up the floor for his teammates as the game wore on. He finished off his first double-double of the year grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds in the game.
The big time recruit along with his buddies in black and gold rose to the occasion upending a Bismarck-Henning squad 59-58 in a back and forth thriller that included twelve lead changes in a tussle between two of the area’s top ranked teams. Tuscola erased a 13 point deficit from late in the third frame to claim the one point victory downing a Blue Devil team that has not lost a regular season contest in over two years winning 41 straight since January 4, 2019.
“We found out a lot about our team tonight,” stated the coach. “They were 34-1 last year with several starters back so we knew they’d be one of the better teams on our schedule. To get behind double digits in the second half and show the toughness and maturity to battle back was huge for us especially against a team like them.”
Quinn hit a three and four more buckets before the under five timeout in the first frame but it wasn’t enough as BH answered with four treys and a short jumper to take a 14-11 lead with just under three minutes gone in the contest. So he went back to work scoring the next six points, capping it off with a drive through what seemed like the entire BH defense putting the Warrior on top 18-17 with 55 seconds to go before the horn. Lead change five and six came on ensuing possessions as the Blue Devils answered with a ten footer before Easton Cunningham subbed in for Quinn and scored the first Warrior points that didn’t belong to the junior. The sophomore hit a deep three making 20-18 after one period of action.
“Jalen carried us in the first quarter,” Bozarth commented. “He was on a roll and dominated. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a blessing and a curse as we felt like our offensive motion stalled out in the second and third quarters. He’s going to have special moments and quarters like this but against the best teams, we can’t get caught up watching. Our off the ball movement is critical to our offensive success.”
Big brother Cole Cunningham was the next to tally points for Bozarth finishing off a feed from Quinn. Then Quinn found Haven Hatfield under the hoop for a deuce before hitting both ends of a one and one knotting it at 28-28. Bismarck’s Elijah Tidwell drained a three for the fifth time in the half at the buzzer giving the Blue Devils a 31-28 lead heading into the break. Quinn had a hand in all but three of the Warriors points in the first 16 minutes of the game with 21 points and two assists to his credit.
Tidwell drew some attention when the teams came back on the court opening up a driving Brett Meidel who scored the first eight points of the third putting the visitors up by ten before the under five timeout. BH followed with its eighth three of night pushing the lead to thirteen before the Warriors started their comeback. Hatfield and Quinn connected off inbound plays on back to back possessions and Hardwick tickled the bottom of the net from outside the arc at the buzzer cutting the lead to ten 51-41 entering the final stanza.
A great team effort by the Warriors trimmed it down even more. Quinn scored on an offensive put back, then found Hardwick for a three before Hatfield took a charge on one end and finished off a feed from Cole Cunningham on the other pulling them to within two of the lead 51-49. The second ten second call of the fourth and the third turnover by the Blue Devils followed, opening the door and Hardwick fired it through from outside the arc for his third three of the night giving Tuscola the lead 52-51 with just over three minutes left in the game. It was the first Warrior lead since late in the second quarter and the last lead change of the night thanks to a late three by Cole Cunningham and a short jumper by Hardwick securing Bozarth’s boys their second win of the year.
Hardwick ended the night with 11 points hitting three of seven three-pointers while Hatfield tallied eight points on a perfect three for three from the floor and two of two from the free throw line. Rohan Patel netted four rebounds in the game and took a big time charge early in the second quarter setting up a big bucket by Quinn. Tuscola won the rebound battle 31-26 and forced 16 turnovers, 11 in the second half.
“Defensively against them late in the third quarter and entire fourth, we thought our effort was tremendous,” Bozarth said. “Over the final ten minutes of play, we held them to about nine total points. If we put together four quarters of that type of defensive effort and rotations, we have a chance to be a pretty special basketball team.”
The JV handed coach Jacob Hilgendorf his second win of the season as well thanks to a team effort on the offensive end that saw eight separate players enter the official scorebook delivering a 39-30 victory. Easton Cunningham led the way hitting three treys on his way to 11 points while Josiah Hortin hit a three his own en-route to nine points. Jordan Quinn, James Parsley and Thomas Brown accounted for four points each and Quinn dominated the boards securing 14 rebounds.