By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s boys basketball rebounded from their first loss of the season with win numbers eight and nine beating Shelbyville 63-54 on Tuesday, February 23, then ran past Danville Schlarman 73-40 a few nights later on Wednesday. They ended a busy week on Friday with just their second loss of the season moving to 9-2 on the year falling to Warrensburg-Lathem 65-56 in CIC action.
The Rams protected their home floor early, hitting five three’s before the half as the two teams traded points until Shelbyville scored six of the last eight points to take a 34-28 lead to the locker rooms. Grant Hardwick fueled Tuscola’s early offense with three treys, scoring nine of his team-high 18 points in the first eight minutes of the game. Classmate Cole Cunningham flexed his muscles outside the arc in the game as well, also hitting three bombs on his way to 12 points.
After the break Tuscola did a lot of damage at the charity stripe dropping eight of 12 from in the final two stanzas. Jalen Quinn and Haven Hatfield each took multiple trips to the line. Quinn was good on seven of nine down the stretch while Hatfield hit all four of his attempts in the second half all leading to a 35-point outburst on the offensive end. That and a pressure defense that gave up just three field goals in the final nine minutes led to the Warrior victory. Hatfield was good on four of five from the stripe, and six of seven from the field totaling 14 points.
Quinn knocked down a pair of threes in the first four minutes of the Schlarman game and hit another in the second period helping the Warriors open up a 13-point lead entering the locker rooms at the break on top 38-25. He was good on four of six from the arc while scoring 11 points in the first and ten more in the second en-route to a game-high 28 points.
Coach Justin Bozarth’s boys kept on coming, following the half posting a 22-point third frame behind threes from Hardwick and Preston Brown. The inside out duo delivered 15 points in the stanza making it 60-34 Warriors heading to the fourth. Hardwick sank two treys in the pivotal period adding ten of his 12 points in the game to his season stat sheet.
Brown, who hit another shot from downtown later in the game scored five points in both the third and the fourth finding his way to a career-high 12 points. Cole Cunningham also reached double-digits dropping ten points, including a three. For the second straight contest Tuscola won the rebound war grabbing 34 to the d the Hilltoppers 21 and also shared the wealth and took care of the ball tallying 14 assists and just nine turnovers.
The Warriors traded buckets early on Friday with the Cardinals of Warrensburg on Tuscola’s senior night that saw Cunningham, Hardwick, Rohan Patel and Ben Teizzi take the floor to open the game. Teizzi drained a three late in the first to make it 10-8 with one minute left in the stanza. It was Cunningham’s turn in the second tickling the bottom of the net twice from arc but a 10-4 run by the Cardinals in the final four minutes of the first half put them in front headed in on top of Tuscola 32-25. Cunningham was good on four threes in the contest scoring 14 points. That’s where the lead would hover the rest of the game with both teams getting buckets when needed.
Bozarth moved Quinn to the middle of the defense midway through the fourth and the adjustment paid off, slowing down the Cardinals while the junior also did some damage on the offensive end. He responded with eight points in the final eight minutes and grabbed five rebounds, two on offense that he quickly put back, cutting the lead to three with 3:38 left on the clock in the game. That’s as close as it would get with Warrensburg ending with a solid performance at the line collecting the CIC road win. Quinn led all in the contest adding yet another double-double to his resume scoring a game-high 28 points while hauling down 14 rebounds, five offensive.