By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s boy’s basketball team collected a pair of solid wins this past week downing back to back Central Illinois Conference Champion Central A&M on Tuesday (74-46) February 9 and a good Robinson squad on Saturday (62-51). The Warriors utilized a balanced offense from their starting five to remain unbeaten on the year moving to 6-0.
Grant Hardwick was good on five of six from the line in the A&M game scoring a game high 22 points. Jalen Quinn occupied the next spot connecting on five of 11 from the field on his way to 17 points. He notched yet another double-double hauling in a game high 14 rebounds while dishing out six assists and swiping six steals. Both guards scored in all four quarters. Fellow backcourt player Cole Cunningham reached the double-digit plateau as well, draining a pair of threes en-route to 11 points.
A&M ran out to a 9-3 lead only to watch the Warriors go on a 15-0 run fueled by a pair of treys by Hardwick ultimately leading to an 18-11 lead at the first buzzer. Two Raider threes in the second led to five lead changes in the period and a two point A&M lead at the half 29-27.
After the two league heavyweights returned to the floor it was all Warriors. Justin Bozarth’s team were inhospitable hosts limiting the visitors to just single digits in the third frame and 20 points total in the final 16 minutes of action while they ran away and hid on the offensive end thanks to a 22-3 run to open the third. Senior Ben Teizzi in his first game of the year was part of the run scoring five of his 11 points including a three ball. Cunningham punctuated the big frame with a three at the buzzer putting the Warrior in from by 17 points 53-36 heading to the fourth.
If you’re counting that’s four Warriors in double digits in the contest and a fifth Haven Hatfield was a near miss. Hatfield battled down low ending the night with eight points. Quinn stole the first possession of the fourth and took it coast to coast then rewarded a Hatfield rebound with a feed to the big man all but ending all hopes of a comeback.
“We had a bit of a slow first half versus Central A&M as we adjusted to how they were guarding,” stated Bozarth. “It was a mix of box and one and a triangle and two attempting to combat Jalen’s offense. As we got settled though, we were really excited about the way the basketball flowed. We moved the ball well and went from getting good looks to great looks at the basket. It’s challenging for opponents to find ways to guard us when we get such balanced scoring.”
It was another shootout early on the road at Robinson but once more a balanced black and gold offensive attack secured the victory. Quinn led all with 19 points and six assists. Hardwick took residence in the second spot in the scorebook adding 17 points to his season totals while Hatfield and Cunningham donated 12 and 11 points respectively. Hatfield who took a big charge in the second half was named Tuscola’s Social Worker Player of the game following the contest.
“We spent a majority of the second half versus A&M in a two three zone defense and guarded really well,” Bozarth added. “We tried it at times at Robinson and it wasn’t as effective and switched back to man to man with a five guard line up in the fourth verse Robinson and held them scoreless for almost six minutes.”
Spreading the wealth seems to be working late in games as teams are forced to cover the floor on defense opening up space and Bozarth’s bunch can fill it up when given room. The win over Robinson was the third straight game that saw four Warrior players reach double digits and the second straight game a big second half secured the win.
“I thought we got really good bench play at Robinson as all ten guys played in the first half,” the coach said. “I felt like we wore them down over the course of the game which enabled us to win the fourth quarter by double digits.”
The JV moved to 6-0 on the year with a pair of wins upending A&M 55-35 and Robinson 53-37. Josiah Hortin was tops against the Raiders with a game high 16 points including three from downtown. Robert Fancher showed up in the book A&M book with 13 points while freshman Jordan Quinn accounted for seven points.
Both boys and girls squads have yet to lose a game at any level in 2021. As a whole head honcho of the Warriors athletic director Ryan Hornaday’s two programs led by Tim Kohlbecker (girls) and Bozarth are a combined 11-0 at the varsity level and 23-0 overall