By Lenny Sementi
Jalen Quinn and the Warriors attacked the post season with a vengeance. The boys in black and gold ran past LaSalette from Georgetown on Wednesday, February 23 in Arcola Regional in the semi finals 54-23 before being rude guests downing the host Riders 56-33 in the Championship game. The victory earns coach Justin Bozarth’s bunch advancement to the Effingham St Anthony Sectional where they will once more look to be rude to their hosts earning a shot at a good Bulldogs squad in the round of thirty-two in their quest for the state tournament.
Like many times before Quinn was the catalyst on the offensive end but it was the defense that ended the hopes of the upset minded Riders. Colton Musgrave, James Parsley, Josiah Hortin, Easton Cunningham and Quinn harassed the outside shooters while Jordan Quinn, Haven Hatfield and Preston Brown battled the big boys in the paint. Arcola was good on less than 30 percent of their shots from the field hitting just 14 of 38 and they were even worse from outside the arc connecting on a mere three of 14 from long range.
Tuscola dominated the boards as well, grabbing 25, ten on the offensive end, to the Riders 15 rebounds. Quinn and his buddies took care of the ball once they got it, turning it over a miniscule five times in the 32 minute contest all leading to the victory.
Quinn scored ten of the first 12 Warrior points, handing Bozarth a two-point 12-10 lead after one. He did more damage in the second stanza hitting his third trey of the game and the defense turned up the heat limiting the Riders to just two field goals leading to a 24-15 advantage at the break. His brother Jordan joined the party from the arc in the third frame helping to build a double-digit lead heading to the home stretch on top 40-25. They slammed the door on the title on defense, limiting the Riders to just 8-points in the final ten minutes of the skirmish.
“This game was a slugfest to start. We needed it to be played at a fast pace to play to our strengths,” the coach said. “We started in a zone press to try to speed them up. A credit to them that they took care of the ball and spaced us out once they got into the half-court for long offensive possessions. Late in the second quarter we went to a half court zone trap that we actually hadn’t done in quite some time. We turned them over and forced quick shots to go on an 8-0 run to finish the half. That run really established us for the second half as Arcola had to play a bit faster to cut into the deficit. We had stops at that point and turned it into transition points.”
Quinn ended the night with 32 points while securing six rebounds. Hortin was next up checking in with eight points including a three. Jordan Quinn followed, adding five points and four rebounds to the totals while Brown delivered four points and six boards. Musgrave tallied four points also and found his way to four rebounds, two on the offensive end.
“Jalen was a monster all night but the turning point for us in the second half was when we were forced to play a couple minutes without him due to injury,” Bozarth said. “It forced Josiah and Jordan to become more aggressive as playmakers. They made plays for themselves and teammates, leading us on a nice run pushing the lead to double-digits.”
A few nights earlier defense again was front-page news limiting LaSalette to just 23 points in the game. The Warriors led 17-2 after one and hit 16 of 29 attempts in the first half heading to the break up 36-15. They secured a shot at the title forcing seven turnovers in the third stanza while getting three’s from Brown, Jordan Quinn and Easton Cunningham entering the fourth on top 52-21 invoking a running clock for the final eight minutes of action.
Brown and the elder Quinn led all scorers posting 16 points a piece. Both were good on seven of nine from the field. Brown was on fire from the arc hitting three of four from distance. Quinn did a little of everything adding nine rebounds, four assists and four steals to his season book of work. His younger brother reached the double-digit plateau as well, donating 11 points and seven rebounds to the cause.
“The LaSalette win was our most complete game of the week,” stated Bozarth. “Playing them with their students presents a unique challenge that can take you out of what you want to do if you let the noise bother you. We felt like our kids were really good at letting the noise and energy of the gym inspire them as opposed to bothering them mentally. Preston and Jordan were tough around the basket in using their size. Defensively in the half court, we were tremendous on the ball and really took them out of a flow.”
It was the second regional crown for Bozarth and Quinn, who started as a freshman. Tuscola moves to 27-6 overall with the victory riding a six-game win streak. St Anthony has a win streak of its own coming out on top in its last eight outings. With a win the Warriors will tie the all time wins record matching the 28 wins posted by the 88-1989 elite eight-team coached by Kerry Kincaid.