Blue Devils carry confidence into regional rematch with Redbirds

By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor

Quincy High School boys basketball coach Sean Taylor can tell you the Blue Devils are a vastly different team than when they played Alton nearly two months ago.

But the numbers illustrate it.

Since the 57-40 loss to the Redbirds at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, the Blue Devils have gone 9-3. They finished second in the Western Big Six Conference, winning seven of their final eight league games.

And after allowing three straight opponents to score 55 or more points, Quincy has allowed just one of its last 12 foes to hit that mark.

In fact, the last 12 opponents have averaged only 44.5 points. The first 13 opponents this season averaged 52.1 points.

So it’s safe to say this team is vastly different.

“In every key facet, we’re better,” Taylor said. “It’s because they’ve worked hard. I know a lot of people say that, but this group made it their goal to get better and become a factor. They’ve done that.”

Wednesday night, the Blue Devils get to showcase how far they’ve come.

Third-seeded Quincy (14-11) faces second-seeded Alton (22-5) in the semifinals of the Class 4A Quincy Regional at Blue Devil Gym. The Redbirds took advantage of the Blue Devils’ struggles defensively in the first meeting, building a 13-point halftime lead as Quincy stuggled to contain dribble penetration.

After that loss, Quincy dumped the traditional man-to-man defense in favor of a 1-2-2 zone and the results speak for themselves.

“We’re playing as well as we have all year,” Taylor said. “All the guys in the rotation are playing well.”

They will need to in order to combat Alton’s quickness and quick-strike ability. The Redbirds rebounded from back-to-back losses to Belleville East and Edwardsville by beating Belleville West and O’Fallon to close the regular season.

It helped having guard Mike Williams-Bey back in the lineup. Despite missing a couple game with an injury, Williams-Bey averages 14.5 points and nearly three steals per game.

He is one of four Redbirds averaging in double figures.

“Like Rocky, they’re quick at every spot,” Taylor said. “They really come after you. They don’t have any defensive liabilities and guard at every position. So you have to be sound making passes from point A to point B.”

But there can be gaps in Alton’s defense.

“You have to have confidence to see it and go after it,” Taylor said.

Right now, few times are playing with as much confidence as the Blue Devils, which makes Taylor believe anything is possible.

— mschuckman@whig.com/221-3366