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Watch now: Jalen Quinn, Grant Hardwick push Tuscola past Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond in first high school basketball game in Central Illinois since pandemic began

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TUSCOLA — There were no cheerleaders, concessions or raffles on Friday when the Tuscola boys basketball team hosted Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond in the first high school basketball game in Central Illinois since March 2020.

Each team could bring just 25 fans for the stands and the group made up of players' parents and family members did their best to made the game feel like a regular game.

But it was the 10 boys on the court, all wearing masks, that were having the time of their lives in the end of the longest offseason of their lives just two days after the IHSA announced that basketball could resume. 

"It was a big surprise for all of us (to play tonight). We were all very excited at first and we knew we  had to be locked in in practice and get after it to be ready for tonight," Tuscola guard Jalen Quinn said. "It was fun, just like we thought it would be and it was very exciting to get back out there."

Tuscola jumped out early and built a 17-point lead at halftime, 33-16, and then kept the Knights at a comfortable distance in the second half to win 58-43. 

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Tuscola Jalen Quinn (3) hits a three against Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond in the fourth quarter. More photos at www.herald-review.com

Quinn, who has attracted Division I offers, led all scorers with 18 points and teammate Grant Hardwick added 15.

Thirteen of Hardwick's points came in the second quarter as he connected on three 3-pointers to build the Warriors' large lead. 

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Tuscola's Grant Hardwick (4) shoots a three against Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond's Jack Martin in the second quarter. More photos at www.herald-review.com

"The first quarter was a little rusty but once I started getting in the rhythm of it, my teammates found me open and I took my time," Hardwick said. "I get open sometimes and I'm just going to shoot it. If it is open, I'm going to shoot it. I've been working on that shot since first grade.

"I have a lot of confidence in myself and once I got that first quarter rust off, I was good to go for the second quarter."

Tuscola's Haven Hatfield and Rohan Patel joined Quinn and Hardwick in double figures with 13 and 10 points, respectively. 

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Tuscola Jalen Quinn (3) is guarded by guard Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond's Kaden Feagin (24) in the second quarter. More photos at www.herald-review.com

ALAH was led by 6-3 forward Kaden Feagin, who had 14 points. At 220 pounds, Faegin is a bull under the basket for the Knights and when he was in, the game was much closer. But the sophomore got into early foul trouble and had to sit on the bench much of the second quarter. 

The Warriors' strength on the boards against Feagin and the Knights impressed Tuscola head coach Justin Bozarth. 

"We had some good moments. Defensively, I thought we were pretty good. We have worked on our defensive stuff a little bit more than our offensive stuff," he said. "Our Achilles' heel for us is our ability to defensive rebound. We don't have incredible size this year but we've got guys who are willing to scrap and compete. I thought for the first game, especially with the size that Arthur brought inside, I thought we did a pretty good job controlling them on the boards."

Players wore masks throughout the game and the game featured dead-ball time-outs around the five minute mark of each quarter to allow the players a breathing break. 

"If you think about the mask, it does bother you, but when you are in the moment you don't really think about it," Hardwick said. "At practice, you think about it a little bit more when you are breathing it in and you are sweating but when you are in the moment, it is really not that bad."

After setting up the first game in record speed, Tuscola faces Bismarck-Henning, who was 32-1 last season, on Tuesday. With the momentous first game out of the way, Bozarth said he's looking forward to returning to the routine of getting ready for that next game. 

"Our schedule is constantly changing and things are being added," he said. "We have Bismarck-Henning here at home. They were undefeated until they got to the super-sectionals so we will have our hands full with them. We are looking forward to watch our film and come back on Monday for practice and getting better."


Contact Matthew Flaten at (217) 421-6968. Follow him on Twitter: @MattFlaten

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