By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s boy’s basketball team had a game postponed on Tuesday, February 16 due to weather but it didn’t lighten their load much as they put in overtime on the weekend playing a pair of games in a matter of hours. The Warriors downed Clinton at home 78-60 on Friday evening to move to 7-0 on the season but after an early bus ride on Saturday morning they dropped their first game of the year falling to Paris Tigers 62-52.
Coach Justin Bozarth’s boys were off and running against Clinton jumping out to a 17-5 lead by the first under five timeout before ending the first frame on top 23-5. The Warriors Jalen Quinn led the way in scoring delivering 24 points including a couple of ankle-breaking early drives for easy buckets but it was junior classmate Haven Hatfield that fueled the first few scoring runs. Hatfield hit a few in the lane before stepping outside the arc late in the opening period en-route to a career-best 17 points as the Warriors accounted for eight of the last ten points in the period.
“Haven has been really solid all year, consistently scoring for us while shooting at a high percentage,” Bozarth said. “He’s got a great understanding of spacing and getting to the right spots when our guys drive to the basket and find him.”
Tuscola added 15 more points to their lead in the second quarter ending the first half up by 21 points 37-16. Quinn who fell just shy of a double-double grabbing nine rebounds in the contest was the one draining a trey in the period as the duo combined for nine points. They were back at it after the break as well scoring ten of the first 12 points helping the Warriors run away and hide extending their lead too twenty-five at the third buzzer in the CIC skirmish.
Both teams opened the fourth in cheetah mode running the floor at a fast pace trading buckets on eight straight possessions. The Maroons either took a fast break drive to the hoop or put up a three ball the first ten seconds of almost every possession in the second half Clinton followed that up with a pair of threes from freshman Mason Walker ultimately cutting into the lead but it was a little too late as the Warriors cruised to victory.
Cole Cunningham came up just short of the double digit plateau scoring nine points while four others Grant Hardwick, Ben Teizzi, Preston Brown and Rohan Patel all donated six points apiece to the cause. Hardwick was also a workhorse on the boards securing eight rebounds.
“Clinton’s style of play forces a lot of points to be scored as there’s a ton of possessions for each team,” the coach commented. “We were disappointed in how we finished the game, we were up 25 and had a chance to push it to 30 to get the clock running allowing us to get guys out and rest them. Because we weren’t able to do that, it had some effect on us the next day at Paris.”
Tuscola looked no worse for wear early in the tilt with the Tigers the next morning jumping out to a 9-0 lead on buckets by Quinn and three balls by Cunningham. Paris responded with two field goals and outscored the Warriors 11-4 in the final five minutes of the first quarter making it 13-11 at the horn.
Hardwick answered a Paris three with one of his own early in the second period but Warriors fouls mounted and a late surge at the line by the host team led to a 27-22 Tiger lead at the break. He hit his second three of the game when the teams came back on the floor and Cunningham finished off a pair of his own not only closing the gap but also pushing the Warriors in front by two with 35 ticks left on the clock. Paris fired back once more with a three at the buzzer to retake the lead 39-38.
Quinn scored four points early in the final stanza before fouling out a little past the midway point of the frame and Hatfield was forced to sit a big part of the frame collecting his third and fourth fouls. Paris surged to a nine-point lead quickly taking advantage of the missing parts and then collected the win at the charity stripe hitting ten free throws down the stretch 6 of them in the final two minutes of the game and twice followed misses at the line with offensive boards erasing precious seconds off the clock. Hardwick was good from the arc twice late cutting it to two points at one point but the fouls and Tiger dominance of the boards in the period were just too much to overcome.
“As a group, we are extremely disappointed with our performance at Paris,” stated coach Bozarth. “When you get outrebounded by 20 and lose the free throw attempt battle 38-12, it’s just not a recipe for a win. The tougher, more physical team won. We got a little away from what we do well and as coaches look forward to seeing how we respond Tuesday.”
Paris grabbed 17 rebounds in the final eight minutes to the Warriors three in the non-conference contest. Cunningham led all scoring games with a game-high 15 points in the game on six of 13 from the field including three treys. Quinn was next up for Tuscola with 13 points while Hardwick added 12 points to his season totals.