Warriors bring home third place trophy
By Lenny Sementi
Not many high school teams in any sport get to end the season with a victory, but that’s exactly what Tuscola’s historic boy’s basketball team did. The Warriors moved to 31-7 on the year with a 69-46 victory over Bloomington Cornerstone Academy in the third-place game of the IHSA’s state 1A boys basketball tournament dubbed the nation’s original ‘March Madness.’
Tuscola earned its second berth in the state tourney in program history with a victory over Mounds Meridian on Monday, March 6 and secured the first boy’s basketball trophy in school history with the win over Cornerstone. Coach Justin Bozarth’s bunch fell to the third-place contest in a low-scoring affair, dropping the state semi-final to state runner-up Scales Mound 40-27. Cornerstone fell to the eventual state champs Waterloo Gibault Catholic in the first semi and entered the third place skirmish boasting 31 wins on the season.
The Warriors did the dirty work in the win over Cornerstone, collecting 31 rebounds, including 10 on the offensive end scoring 8 second-chance points. Chris Boyd put a pair back early in the game on his way to 17 points and 10 rebounds. Jordan Quinn joined Boyd on the double-double plateau scoring 13 points and securing 12 rebounds. Quinn put back an offensive rebound in the first half as well, helping the Warriors to a 32-19 lead at the break.
Quinn found his way to the rim for the first bucket of the game 30 seconds in and Kam Sweetnam followed with a three, giving Tuscola a lead they would hold for the next 31 minutes and 30 seconds. A lead they would drive to as big as 23 points late in the contest. They attacked inside and out, hitting 8 threes in the game while scoring 38 points in the paint shooting 56% from the field in the game.
The Warriors all but ended the suspense with a 7-point run early in the fourth quarter with a Sweetnam 3-ball sandwiched between buckets in the low post by Boyd. Sweetnam led all in the game with 19 points also adding 5 assists and 3 rebounds. Quinn and Parker James found double digits as well, scoring 13 and 10, respectively.
“Not many get to win the last game,” stated Bozarth. “These guys are amazing. We have been doing this for almost five months and never lost focus. It’s tough to play the third-place game after losing in the semis but they never wavered.”
Tuscola has used the land outside the arc to their advantage all season long, but in the semi versus Scales Mound, they found the bottom of the net just once from long range and were outscored in the lane 20-6. Scales entered the tourney boasting a 32-5 record returning to state after a third-place finish a year ago.
“We just were not hitting shots,” stated Quinn. “At some point, they start falling, but that never happened partly due to their defense. We thought going in with the game on a bigger floor that we would have more space to work but they covered it up very well.”
The two teams traded points as both struggled to find success on the offensive end early on. Boyd put in a pair from the charity stripe to put the Warriors up 7-5 with over 4 minutes to go in the first frame. That’s where it would stay for the next 6-minutes before Scales knotted it at 7. Quinn followed with a pair of buckets and the Warriors ran off 6 straight points, moving in front 13-8 following a made free throw. Scales answered with a run of their own and hit a big bucket with 13 seconds left in the half, moving to within 2 at the break, 15-13.
The length of the bench for scales and defensive switches limited the Warriors to just 4 points in the third frame as they went scoreless for nearly seven minutes, following to a lead that proved to be too large to overcome. Sweetnam was tops in the offensive category for Tuscola, adding 8 points to the totals. Quinn was next up, tallying 7 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.
“It was a low-scoring slugfest,” Bozarth said. “We had our chances. Their defensive changes in the second half and their runouts to the arc affected us. When we hold a team to 40 points, we usually win, it shows how good Scales Mound’s defense is.”
When Bozarth was asked about the basketball team’s success in the post-game press conference stated, “Our school takes pride in all our sports. The girl’s track team won the state last year. We have two guys (Hortin and Jackson Barrett) that were all-state in cross country. Jordan was our QB on a quarterfinal football team, Chris is one of the best throwers in the state, our softball team has been strong. Our success comes from an attitude that is built all year long.”