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New territory and season for Tuscola Lady Warriors basketball team

By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola ‘s girls basketball team enters new territory this year. The Lady Warriors and long time coach Tim Kohlbecker are leaving Class 2A and moving back to Class 1A for the first time since 2012. Kohlbecker enters his 18th year at the helm boasting 322 wins and eight regional championships including 2A titles in 15, 16 and 17 when the Warriors were consistently one of the smallest schools in the class. 

The Warriors have an added incentive to get Coach K’s ninth regional crown. Historic Tuscola Gymnasium will host one of the four Class 1A sectionals; a regional title equals a trip back to the home floor.  

“It’s going to be a good year, it’s exciting to think about moving to 1A, and if we keep steadily improving I really feel we can make a deep postseason run,” the coach stated. “We host both the CIC and IHSA Sectionals, and we need to take advantage of that.”

The ladies in black and gold were odds-on favorites to put one more 2A regional crown in his stat column last season after a 15-3 record overall and a 6-1 mark in the league but COVID cancelled the IHSA postseason. Gone from that group are three of his top four scorers, the team’s MVP, two All Central Illinois Conference honorees and a boatload of varsity floor minutes. Back is a pair of starters, and the first two off the bench a year ago. 

Seniors Sophie Kremitzki, Taylor Musgrave and Maddie Stahler will look to lead this year’s group into the 2021-22 season with hopes of a league championship and a long postseason run. Kremitzki, a three-year varsity player and two year starter was a New Gazette All Area Honorable Mention as a junior and will be the one making up for the points around the hoop lost to graduation. Musgrave has started more than a few games and is solid on both offense and defense while Stahler, last season’s Warrior Spirit award winner, who is good from inside and outside the arc on offense looks to take a big step up and into the starting lineup. 

“Myself and assistant coaches Mike Rosenbaum and Justin Quick expect Stahler and Musgrave to be major contributors this season,” Kohlbecker commented. “We need Taylor to be a major defensive factor and Maddie can play multiple positions which makes her very valuable.” 

Junior Ella Boyer will distribute the ball and is the team’s biggest threat from three-point land. She enters her third year on varsity roster as one of the toughest defenders in the area and a double-digit scoring threat night in and night out. 

“We will look to Kremitzki and Boyer to be the quarterback on the floor,” stated the coach. “They are both multi-year starters. Ella is one of the most competitive kids I have seen and Sophie has worked really hard since last year and played a lot of off-season ball. She has developed into an all around player on both ends.”

Joining Boyer will be three classmates capable of having breakout seasons. Isabelle Wilcox is very athletic with the ability to play in the lane and on the outside. Harley Woodard and Molly Macauley both will have a big presence in the lane and in the rebound department.

Sophomore Sydney Moss is an unknown commodity after a shortened freshman season at the JV level. Coach K. listed her, Wilcox and Woodard as players to watch as newcomers to the varsity lineup.  

“Sydney so far has been practicing with more intensity and confidence than last season,” Kohlbecker said. “Woodard is arguably the most athletic girl on the team and had a decent offseason working on her skills. Importantly, she can guard any position. Wilcox, another very athletic player who is refining her game and becoming a slasher as well as a shooter.”

Sophomore Zoey Thomason is another that could vie for varsity minutes as the season moves along. Kohlbecker feels that when she develops the intensity to match her athleticism she will be an important addition to the team. Freshman Ava Boyer may also be another that can donate at the varsity level early in her career. She has good basketball skills and is very competitive. 

 “It’s hard at this point in the season to predict the future of this team. We graduated a lot of varsity minutes so we are inexperienced,” Kohlbecker quipped. “What we do have is athleticism and speed, so if our athleticism transfers into basketball skills and we play with intensity, develop chemistry and defend, we think we can be very successful. We need leadership from our seniors and so far so good—Taylor Musgrave has really stepped into a leadership role.”

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