By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s boy’s basketball team has experienced the full gambit of emotions since November and have risen to the occasion each and every time. This past there was a new wrench thrown into the works for coach Justin Bozarth and his coaching staff, no seniors. All four of the team’s seniors and one sophomore’s seasons were cut short due to COVID issues and contact tracing on Monday afternoon as the team loaded the bus headed to Meridian for a game that would decide the Central Illinois Conference title.
Tuscola’s scorebook would look a lot different with only two starters Jalen Quinn and Haven Hatfield remaining. Sophomores Colton Musgrave, Bobby Fancher and freshman Jordan Quinn and Josiah Hortin were given jerseys as emergency additions to the varsity rosters as the bus headed west.
“We found out about 15 minutes prior to the bus leaving for Meridian that our roster was going to look much different,” the coach said. “That was a game we had circled as we knew if we could go there and win, we still controlled our own destiny to a conference title.”
Meridian, the league’s only unbeaten team, hit a three in every frame with a pair in both the first and second frames giving them a five-point advantage up 29-24 at the half. After falling behind by double digits early Tuscola rallied behind big buckets by
Quinn and Hatfield cut it to five by the break and stayed within striking distance throughout but a 20-point outburst by the Hawks in the fourth was too much to overcome.
Quinn, a division one recruit flexed his muscles in the game erupting for a career-high 37 points in the contest. He was solid in all aspects of the game adding six rebounds, three assists and six steals to his season stat sheet. Speaking of rebounds, the junior’s younger brother freshman Jordan Quinn made the most of his time on the floor with his brother grabbing a team-best nine rebounds four on the offensive end one of which he put back for the first points of his varsity career.
Hatfield ended the night with seven points including a deep three in the fourth. Preston Brown and Hortin were next with five points followed by Rajan Patel who checked in with four points.
“I thought we competed really well with so many guys who got thrust into varsity roles,” stated Bozarth. “Jordan led us in rebounding and showed a glimpse of what he could bring to our team. Unfortunately, he was injured the next night. Jalen’s offense allowed us to stay in the game down to the wire.”
One later Tuscola celebrated twice once before the game and again after it. Basketball hall of famer Richard Kidwell was honored pregame for his fifty years of service at the scorers table as the voice of the Warriors and at the end of the night the new look Warriors secured an overtime victory over Sullivan despite entering the contest without six players in all.
In an odd occurrence Quinn led the way off the bench dropping 34 points on the Redskins in a 54-51 victory. He hit three treys in the second and three more in overtime. Back to back 30-point plus outings pushed him into third place on the all time Tuscola High School scoring list.
He knotted it at 51 after his first two in the extra period and then fired the last dagger from the arc following a steal and a feed from Musgrave on the ensuing inbounds. Hatfield had a big bucket in OT also donating 11 points to the team totals. Thomas Brown added six points and Preston Brown banged the boards for seven rebounds while distributing four assists.
“It was a quick turnaround playing Sullivan the next night,” Bozarth added. “It was a situation where we have so many new players on our varsity team that it’s hard to run a lot of the sets that we’ve been running all year. Sullivan is a team who went to Paris and won. They also beat VGH by over 20 so we were really pleased with how we responded making a late comeback with our youth. Colton made a key steal and had the smarts to pitch it back to Jalen as time was running out and he took us home.”
They ended their conference slate on Friday at St. Teresa falling in a two-point thriller 51-49. Tuscola held a slim lead most of the contest but a consistent scoring effort and a late run by the Bulldogs proved to be enough in the defensive skirmish. Quinn finished off the week with 23 points in the contest hitting seven of nine from the line in the second half. Hatfield and James Parsley both reached the double digit plateau as well, each accounting for ten points.
“The St. Teresa game was a little disappointing,” Bozarth quipped. “We finally got a couple days of practice leading into it and it felt like we should have walked out of there with a win. St. T made the last run of the game and we just couldn’t get enough stops throughout the course of the game.”