By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
WEBSTER GROVES, Mo. — The determination the Quincy High School boys basketball team continues to put on display is being undone by the lack of a finishing touch in clutch moments.
Friday night was another example.
The Blue Devils trailed Webster Groves, the two-time defending Missouri Class 5 state champion and the Show-Me State’s No. 1-ranked team, by two points with 21.9 seconds remaining in regulation and had possession of the ball. Instead of settling for a contested 3-pointer, Quincy attacked the paint and got two quality looks within 5 feet of the basket.
Jeremiah Talton’s shot off dribble penetration rimmed out, and Lucas Reis’ putback attempt was hard off the backboard. The Statesmen cleared the second rebound and made two of four free throws in the final five seconds to cement a 56-52 victory at Roberts Gym.
“We had a lot of opportunities,” Quincy senior guard Jaeden Smith said. “We have to be more tough. We have to execute the right sets and get the right shot at the right time.
“We never want to settle for less and get over the hump when we know we can win against these high-caliber teams.”
Quincy (6-8) has seven losses this season by six points or less, and the time for moral victories has passed.
“That’s kind of the message we’re trying to send to these guys,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “We can’t be complacent. We can’t look back after a loss and say, ‘Well, we’re playing a better team than us. They’re more talented. They’re more athletic. But we played hard and gave ourselves a chance at the end and it just didn’t work out.’
“That becomes old. We have to find ways to pull wins out. It’s a big obstacle we have to get over.”
It felt like the prime time to clear such a hurdle.
Coming off a 3-1 showing at the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic, the Blue Devils showed no fear of the Statesmen. Talton buried a 3-pointer from the corner on the game’s first possession, and two minutes into the second quarter, Quincy led 22-12.
However, Webster Groves (10-0) closed the half on a 10-0 run as Quincy went 0 of 8 from the field with four turnovers in the final six minutes. The Blue Devils didn’t commit a turnover in the game’s first 10 minutes.
“For some reason this season, we’ve been down 10 every game, so they’re used to that,” Webster Groves coach Jay Blossom said. “We came roaring back and got some stops, which made the difference.”
Tied at 22 at halftime, the Statesmen opened the third quarter with back-to-back 3-pointers to make it a 16-0 run.
“It felt like we were playing from behind the rest of the game,” Douglas said.
The Blue Devils responded and took a 32-31 lead on Jaeden Smith’s 3-pointer with 3:35 to go in the third quarter. The Statesmen scored on a putback on the next possession, took a 41-37 lead into the fourth quarter and never surrendered the advantage.
“It wasn’t easy all the way to the end,” Blossom said. “Quincy plays hard, and they crash the boards. We had to work hard until the very end to finish that off.”
The Blue Devils still made it interesting.
Trailing 53-49 after the Statesmen’s Amorey Womack missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 46.2 seconds to play, the Blue Devils ran Talton, who finished with 12 points, off a double screen at the top of the key. He buried the 3-pointer with 28.3 seconds left.
Webster Groves’ Malachy Simpson split a pair of free throws on the ensuing possession, and Quincy called timeout with 21.9 seconds left. The Blue Devils executed their offense and got two looks at the tying basket.
But in what has become the narrative of the season, neither fell.
“It’s going take everything we have to finish one off,” said Smith, who led the Blue Devils with 14 points. “It’s going to take more grit and more toughness.”
Webster Groves 56, Quincy 52