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Survive and advance in Holiday Hoopla

By Lenny Sementi

As it turns out, Tuscola’s closest ball game at the Monticello Holiday Hoopla was their first one. And, once the mark is in the win column no one really cares how it got there and in pool play, that mark is all that matters. Coach Justin Bozarth’s boys moved past a hustling Neoga squad in their opener the day after Christmas with a late scoring burst, downing the Indians in a back-and-forth low-scoring affair 43-39.

Points were at a premium early, with a pair of Indian’s threes proving to be the difference at the first buzzer, giving Neoga a slim 13-9 advantage after one. Tuscola was unable to reach double-digits again in the second, scoring 9 on two buckets by Jordan Quinn and one each from Kam Sweetnum and Josiah Hortin. The Warriors’ defense allowed just two field goals in the same time span, knotting the game at 17’s entering the break.

Bozarth’s boys found double-digits scoring 13 in both of the final two frames and slammed the door on the defensive end to secure the round one victory. Hortin led the Warriors with 12 points hitting threes in each of the final two stanzas. Sweetnum hit a three late, ending his day with 11 points and Quinn followed with 10 points. He and Hortin each hauled in 6 rebounds, pushing Tuscola to an 8-board advantage. Parker James added 7 points to the mix off the bench on 3 of 6 from the floor.

“We started our first two pool play games a little sluggish. It wasn’t just us there wasn’t a ton of real pure basketball played on Monday,” stated Bozarth. “It looked like most of us hadn’t practiced in 3-4 days because of the weather and the Holiday. We struggled defensively out of the gate against both Neoga and GCMS. Starting games well has been a focus of ours this season and we did not meet our expectations in both of those games. However, both games were close throughout, which is what we needed. The majority of our wins have not been close in the 4th quarter so it was nice for us to learn the importance of executing at the end of close games.”

“Sawyer Woodard provided great minutes in both of those games off the bench. We are seeing him dominate JV games this year and you can see him finding his footing in varsity games as well.”

Points came easier in game one of day two but it was the same recipe that sealed the deal on win number two of the Hoopla with the defense holding a good GCMS team to just 7 points in the last 8 minutes of action, securing a 52-46 victory. Quinn scored 4 in the 1st and 8 in the 4th, leading all with 12 points. The junior banged his way to 10 rebounds, 4 in the 4th, adding a double-double to his season wrap sheet. Hortin and Chris Boyd both checked in with 8 points apiece, while Colton Musgrave and Sweetnum each added 7 points to the stat sheet. James was again big off the bench, tallying 6 points and grabbing 5 rebounds.

The Warriors fired on all cylinders in the nightcap of day two and their final pool play skirmish ran past PBL 49–12 limiting the Panthers to just 5 baskets the entire game. Quinn and Jackson Barrett both hit three’s in the first stanza helping the black and gold to 14 points which was two more than they would need to punch their ticket to the program’s third straight championship game at the Hoopla.

Quinn was good on 7 of 13 from the floor and 2 of 3 from the line in the game posting a game-high 16 points. Sweetnum was good on 3 of 4 from outside the arc en route to 11 points, while Hortin, Boyd, James and Woodard each donated 4-points to the cause helping Tuscola to a 3–0 outing in pool play.

“We made PBL very uncomfortable holding them scoreless for about the first 13 minutes of that game,” commented the coach. “Chris’s improvements on that end have been a key component to our success. He’s not allowing opposing big man to score and his rotations off the ball continue to get better. Parker and Kam have both made drastic improvements defensively as well now that they’re getting comfortable with varsity basketball. As a result, you’re seeing us hold teams to a low amount of points.”

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