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Tuscola, BHRA see seasons end in sectional semifinals

Feb. 29—EFFINGHAM — The abrupt nature of the season ending — and how it came to its conclusion — didn't leave a whole lot of words spoken in the somber Tuscola locker room on Wednesday night.

Minutes after the Tuscola boys' basketball team lost 49-46 to Centralia Christ Our Rock Lutheran in a Class 1A St. Anthony Sectional semifinal game via a buzzer-beating three-pointer by Jayden Bazile, Warriors coach Justin Bozarth and his staff made sure one point came across in a clear way.

"Honestly, there's really nothing in that moment that really could be said that would make the moment any better," Bozarth said. "We reminded all of them how much we love them, and that was really the message."

A message Bozarth didn't want to deliver just yet.

Not after the Warriors (28-6) had their sights set on returning to State Farm Center in Champaign next week for the 1A state tournament, where Tuscola placed third in state last season.

With four starters back from last season's team, the Warriors won their first 15 games this season and won their first three postseason games by an average of 40 points.

But the Silver Stallions (19-15) relied on a high-scoring performance from Bazile, who sank seven three-pointers and scored a game-high 25 points. Christ Our Rock Lutheran finished 9 of 17 from three-point range on Wednesday night.

A close game throughout, Tuscola trailed 26-25 at halftime and the Warriors still found themselves behind 38-37 to start the fourth quarter.

With Tuscola down 46-44, senior guard Josiah Hortin got a steal, made a layup and tied the game at 46 with 25 seconds left.

Christ Our Rock Lutheran held for the final shot and then kicked it out to Bazille for the game-winning three-pointer to send the Silver Stallions into Friday's 6 p.m. sectional title game against Arcola (27-6). The Purple Riders will try to win their first sectional championship since 1964.

"Josiah contested the shot well and got as close as he could without fouling the kid," Bozarth said. "It was the kid's night."

Wednesday night's season-ending loss was the second in the past three seasons Tuscola has sustained at the Enlow Center. Meridian beat the Warriors 82-79 in double overtime in a 2022 sectional title game at St. Anthony on a 60-foot buzzer-beater.

"I don't have a lot of nice things to say about that gym," Bozarth said.

He did, however, have plenty of praise to heap on his three-man senior class of Hortin, Jordan Quinn and Jackson Barrett. Hortin scored a team-high 13 points for Tuscola on Wednesday and junior forward Sawyer Woodard added 10 points. Junior guard Kam Sweetnam (eight points), junior guard Parker James (seven points), Quinn (five points) and Barrett (three points) rounded out the scoring.

"It certainly stings, that's for sure, but when I think back on our three seniors and the careers they've had, I couldn't be more proud," Bozarth said of the trio who went 100-25 in four seasons. "When it comes to those three guys and what they've been able to pour into the program, we love everything they've done."

In Class 2A

Blue Devils lose to unbeaten Beecher. Gary Tidwell knew his Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin team would have to play its best game if it wanted to extend its season beyond Wednesday night.

Facing an undefeated team like Beecher brings about those challenges. Challenges the Blue Devils met, but offensive challenges in the fourth quarter prevented BHRA from securing an upset win as Beecher won 61-51 in a Clifton Central Sectional semifinal game.

"Beecher played with a lot of poise and confidence throughout," Tidwell said. "We battled back, but we just missed a lot of easy baskets in the second half, and we went cold in the fourth quarter."

BHRA (30-4) saw its 20-game win streak end against the Bobcats (33-0), who play Fieldcrest (33-1) at 7 p.m. Friday in the sectional title game.

The Blue Devils trailed 17-7 at the end of the first quarter, but went into halftime ahead 29-27 and only trailed 46-45 to start the fourth quarter. Sophomore guard Keison Peoples scored a game-high 20 points to lead BHRA, with senior forward Ayden Ingram joining him in double figures with 16 points. Junior Anderson Thomas added nine points.

Ingram and Landon Leigh are the only two seniors BHRA will lose before next season, with the Blue Devils set to return the majority of a roster that posted the second 30-win season in school history.

"Both Ayden and Landon have won a lot of games the past several years and have been instrumental in our success," Tidwell said. "Both of those guys played a key role in our regional title last week, and that's something they'll always cherish."