By Lenny Sementi
It was a great post holiday run for Tuscola’s basketball programs as both coach Tim Kohlbecker’s girls and coach Justin Bozarth’s boy’s squads each found their way to the championship games of Monticello’s always-tough Holiday Hoopla Tournament. The three-day event started on December 27 and ran through December 29.
Kohlbecker’s crew entered the tourney on a five-game win streak and quickly extended it to an eight-game running the table in pool play with wins over Stark County, Ridgeview and Paxton Buckley Loda. Bozarth’s bunch bounced back from pre holiday loss at Okaw Valley with three pool play wins as well downing a very strong Oakwood squad to open the tourney before beating both Ridgeview and PBL earning their spot in the Championship game and a chance to defend their title from the last Hoopla.
Both however suffered the same fate coming up short with low scoring second halves in the title tilts. The boys fell to the host Sages 50-34 delivering just 12 points after the half while the girls came up short against a very strong Neoga team 49-36 putting just seven points on the board in the final 16 minutes of action.
Easton Cunningham and Jordan Quinn both stepped outside the arc late in the opening frame erasing a quick start by the Sages pulling the Warriors to within three at the first buzzer 16-13. Jalen Quinn hit a runner and a short jumper in the first minute of the second as the two area heavy weights traded buckets early and late in the frame heading to break with the Sages on top 25-21.
That trend continued for the four minutes of the third but a swarming Sage defense slowed the Warriors attack and a 7-2 run in the final three minutes of the stanza put the home team out front by nine points heading to the fourth up 48-30. The drought continued for Tuscola scoring just two points in the first 4:30 of the final stanza. They managed just six points in the quarter and eight total in the last 12 minutes of the contest.
“We were disappointed in our play tonight,” Bozarth commented. “They had a lot to do with that. We haven’t seen a man-to-man defense as physically tough or as laterally quick as they were. For us defensively, they exposed our weaknesses: defensive rebounding and off the ball rotations. They cut hard and attack the offensive rebounds. They’re a tough team to get behind on because they pull their 5 out even farther from the basket and become that much more difficult to guard with their quickness.”
Coach K’s group shook off a slow start erasing an early seven-point deficit with a 17-2 run eclipsing the final half of the first period and the first four minutes of the second. Junior Ella Boyer hit a three to start the Lady Warriors offensive outburst and then hit another later in the first but it was sophomore Sydney Moss that fueled the run scoring ten of the 17 and 12 total in the first half. She capped off the burst taking a steal coast to coast for a layup with just under five minutes to go in the second helping Tuscola to a 29-23 advantage at the break.
Points were hard to come by in the third and fourth. Tuscola posted just two field goals in the final 16 minutes of the game all from the bench with Molly Macaulay and Ava Boyer each tallying one. Neoga’s length caused problems down the stretch securing the championship for the Lady Indians.
The Lady Warriors were good on 63 percent from behind the arc with Boyer notching three in the game and Isabelle Wilcox and Stahler both delivering one. Moss led the way with 12 points for Tuscola 12-6 on the year. Boyer was next in line with 11 points, including three treys. Sophie Kremitzki hauled in a team-best ten rebounds and dished out four assists from her point guard position.
“That’s a very solid Neoga team that beat us, they won the battle of the boards and scored a lot of points in the paint,” stated Kohlbecker. We turned it over too much and too frequently. In hindsight there are adjustments I wish I had made that will be utilized if we meet up with them in the postseason.”
Both the boys and the girls put a pair on their respective all tourney teams. Jalen Quinn and Preston Brown earned the honors for Bozarth while Kremitzki and Ella Boyer took home the honors for Kohlbecker. Boyer reached double-digits in all four contests scoring 53 points. Kremitzki was right behind adding 47 points to her season stat sheet.
“It was great to see Ella and Sophie rewarded for what they do for the team,” Kohlbecker said. “Ella is shooting threes at a high percentage and Sophie is running the show at the point and is strong on the boards.”
Quinn checked in with 72 points in the four games serving as the leading scorer in three of the four games. Brown totaled 33 points, dropping 20 points in the Ridgeview skirmish. Both were big around the hoop each averaging seven rebounds a game.
“Really pleased with Preston’s performance over the week,” quipped Bozarth. “He had his first double-double of the year against Ridgeview with 20 points, ten rebounds and was solid and steady in the other pool play games. He’s made great strides this year as a rebounder for us. Jalen also had a great week. His scoring in a couple games was a bit down but he did a great job of letting the game come to him and trusting his teammates. His point totals were under his average but his assists were up finding his teammates on offense.”