TUSCOLA — Justin Bozarth knows how quickly a basketball game can change in just three minutes.
Bozarth, the Tuscola boys basketball coach, is a staunch believer that the opening stanza of the third quarter can either bury an opponent or let them back in the game. On Tuesday, the Warriors had a 10-point lead at halftime against Arcola, but suddenly the Purple Riders were within three points midway through the third quarter.
Then the Warriors, led by freshman Jalen Quinn and senior Will Little, orchestrated a 17-0 run to breeze past the Purple Riders 54-32 in the basketball rendition of the Cola Wars.
Those opening minutes of the second half had been an Achilles' heel for the Warriors this season and turned back up Tuesday, but those pains were washed away by the scoring run to end the third quarter and open the fourth.
Little sparked the defense, coming up with a game-high seven steals, and Quinn had six of his own to go along with a double-double of 24 points and 10 rebounds.
“There weren’t really huge changes," Little said of the run. "(Bozarth) basically said we need to settle down and settle into what we do. We just kind of needed to find our rhythm and we got into it."
All told, by the 5:32 mark in the fourth quarter, Tuscola (7-1) was in the middle of a 20-2 run.
“Our turnovers, I call them suicide turnovers, led to layups for them that we couldn’t defend," Arcola coach Greg Gisinger said. "That was the difference in the game in my opinion. When we made it a half court game, it was a pretty tight game. Credit to them, they turned the pressure up on us and it kind of wore us out."
Little had seven points for the Warriors, but offense isn't where his presence is needed on the Warriors — Quinn provides more than enough for that and had 10 points during the pivotal 17-0 run.
Instead, Little embraces his role of locking down the top scorer on opposing teams and playing strong defense while distributing the ball.
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“He’s a ball hawk," Bozarth said. "There is no guy in our program who knows his role better than Will Little and executes his role better than him. When your role is a defensive guy, your name’s not going to get in the paper every single night, but he guards like that in practice every day. Then he comes and does it on game nights for the betterment of the team without the notoriety."
Little's defense provided an offensive spark. The game was tied 4-all after the first quarter before Bozarth had Little play a full-court press, and switched from a zone defense to a man-to-man defense, to amp up the defensive pressure and the Warriors scored in double figures in each quarter the remainder of the game.
“His energy on defense and ball pressure kind of got Arcola out of sorts and sped them up and in turn for us it kind of sped us up and got us going offensively," Bozarth said of Little.
Tuscola likes to get out in transition, but Arcola found a way to slow the game to a half-court affair to temporarily get the Warriors out of their comfort zone.
Those steals Little came up allowed the Warriors to get in their comfort zone and run.
“He’s our defensive specialist," Quinn said. "He’s always looking to get after it on defense and force turnovers. We’re a fastbreak team so any time we can do that, it’s good for our team."
Offensively, Quinn displayed his entire arsenal. He posted up for layups, blew past defenders at mid-court for layups and found his 3-point stroke in the third quarter after missing a few triples early in the game.
The 6-foot-2 freshman scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half.
“I got more comfortable and tried to be more of a leader for our team so we could get a bigger margin on the scoreboard, so that’s what I did," Quinn said.
Myles Roberts led Arcola (3-9) with 13 points and 10 rebounds to go along with nine points from Kevin Garza.