By Lenny Sementi
Tuscola’s girl’s basketball team made the biggest splash in pool play at the Monticello Holiday Hoopla in their opener. Coach Tim Kohlbecker’s crew collected win number fifteen on the year upending the state’s third-ranked team in class 1A downing Neoga in a thriller 49–43. They backed that up one day later with a pair of wins, dropping GCMS 55-24 in the first game on Tuesday, Dec. 27 and PBL 47–22 in the nightcap ending pool play 3–0 earning the right to defend their Hoopla title, from a year ago against a good Clinton squad.
Kohlbecker’s entire roster saw time in the second half of the final two skirmishes keeping the lineup fresh for a championship run. Ella Boyer led all in Tuscola’s pool, adding 56 points to her season stat sheet. The senior sharpshooter hit the double-digit plateau in all three contests while tallying double-digit made threes.
Next up was classmate Harley Woodard donating 27 points to the cause. A third senior Isabelle Wilcox followed with 26 points, including 4-three’s, then came Sydney Moss with 21 points. Ava Boyer hit a pair of threes on her, accounting for 17 points in the trio of outings.
“Pool play went as expected, with our first game being our toughest and using the subsequent games to work on certain areas and to get playing time for everyone,” stated the coach. “Which is critical for continued success. We lost twice to Neoga last year, we watched them live a week and a half ago, watched other videos and we knew they were worthy of their #3 ranking. We had a game plan and the girls executed very well. We made shots, FT’s, won the rebounding battle and made their best player work hard for her points.”
Both Tuscola and Neoga entered the marquee game with identical 14–0 records and it showed as the two state-ranked squads traded leads five times throughout the first frame. Ella Boyer hit 3 of her 4-three’s in the game in the first 8 minutes of action en route to 13 points. Woodard and Lia Patterson both stepped outside the arc as well in the opening stanza, opening up the middle for Moss in the 2nd frame. The junior post took full advantage, hitting a trio of jumpers, helping give the Warriors a 21–15 lead heading into the break.
Neoga stormed back with an 8-point run in the 3rd, putting the Indians on top by two 33–31 entering the 4th quarter. Woodard scored 6 of Tuscola’s first 10 of the 2nd half and hit 6 of 6 from the line late, solidifying the victory. Ava Boyer was strong late as well, scoring all 5 of her points in the final 6 minutes of the game. Boyer hit a late three and Wilcox added another.
Coach K’s group got off the bus on fire on day two, scoring 18 in the first quarter against GCMS and 19 in the same time span versus PBL. The defense, as always, was stellar, leading to a pair of dominant wins. Ella Boyer had a game-high 21 points against Gibson City and 12 against PBL, sinking 7-treys. Wilcox was big in the late game, accounting for 15 points against the Panthers, hitting 3 of 6 from downtown. Ava Boyer notched 12 points, 11 deals, 6 assists and 5 rebounds.
Woodard was a beast on the boards, grabbing 15 while scoring 16 points, including an 8-point third against Paxton. Patterson and Zoey Thomason added to the stat columns combining for 9 rebounds, 7 steals, and 9 points.