By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
QUINCY — Of all the lessons the Quincy High School boys basketball team learned Thursday night, the most valuable is also the most worrisome.
The Blue Devils figured out they can withstand an injury.
Still, how long senior point guard Aaron Shoot will be sidelined is cause for concern.
Shoot scored 12 of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter of a 76-69 victory over Providence St. Mel in the 47th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament and seemed well on his way to an epic night. Yet, with 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter, he made a jump pass in the backcourt, landed awkwardly and rolled over in pain.
He limped off the floor and sat on the edge of the bench with his shoe off and an ice bag wrapped around his sprained left ankle.
“Aaron is our ring leader and we all know that,” Quincy junior guard Jirehl Brock said. “He’s a veteran guy, and he’s a guy who really knows how to control the ball and control tempo. Tonight, we learned we’re going to have to find ways to do without sometimes.
“He’s not going to be able to be in the whole game every game. We’re going to have to find ways to maneuver without him, and this was a prime example of it.”
Shoot didn’t return and watched as the Knights trimmed a 16-point deficit to nine less than two minutes into the fourth quarter. Eventually, the Blue Devils settled down, pushed the lead back to as many as 20 and didn’t have to sweat out the final minutes.
“It doesn’t feel so good when you have that kind of ending,” said Quincy senior forward Ben Amos, who finished with 11 points, six rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and a steal. “But we played very well to begin with. It was a great start. At points, we showed what we can do, and that’s what is important.
“We didn’t play like we should play the whole time, but we did play like we can play at spots.”
When that happened, Providence St. Mel had no answer.
Tied at 9 six minutes into the game, Quincy took the lead for good by finishing the first quarter on a 6-0 run with all six points scored by Shoot. Amos buried a 3-pointer on the Blue Devils’ first possession of the second quarter, and defensively, they turned up the intensity.
The run turned into a 15-0 spurt capped by Brock’s steal and layup with 4:21 remaining in the first half that gave the Blue Devils a 24-9 edge. The Knights committed six turnovers and missed six shots in that stretch.
“The way our guys came out was our biggest concern,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “How are we going to open the season? I thought our guys did a really good job of staying focused and sticking to the gameplan.”
That was to be physical against the bigger Knights. The Blue Devils did not allow an offensive rebound during the Knights’ drought and were outrebounded only 35-33 overall. Brock finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds, while all eight Blue Devils who played grabbed at least one rebounds.
“Our guys did a really good job of finding people,” Douglas said. “They may not have gotten every single rebound, but they found guys and punished and boxed them out to give themselves a chance.”
The Blue Devils ended the half strong, too. They scored on four of their final six possessions with Shoot burying a step-back 3-pointer just before the buzzer.
Not bad for a player who rolled his right ankle in practice Wednesday and was forced to sit and rest it.
Now, it’s more of the same. Shoot, who was given a walking boot before leaving Blue Devil Gym on Thursday night, will ice and rest his left ankle to decrease the swelling.
“Whether it’s tomorrow, Saturday or next week, we just hope he gets back healthy,” Douglas said.
Until then, the Blue Devils gained some confidence they can thrive.
“It’s difficult and we rely on him heavily,” Amos said. “He’s a huge presence for us. He’s great at breaking presses. We showed we can pass the ball really well, we can break presses and we can handle it without him.”