Blue Devils dismantle Class 2A’s second-ranked team to complete weekend sweep

By DON O’BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer

Should the Quincy High School boys basketball team go on to reach some lofty heights this season, the Blue Devils may look to this weekend as the point where it all started.

A night after pulling off a thrilling win over Western Big Six Conference foe Moline, the Blue Devils dismantled one of Class 2A’s best teams on Saturday night. Quincy forced Monmouth-Roseville into 26 turnovers and dominated the middle two quarters of the non-conference game for a 63-43 victory at Blue Devil Gym.

The win pulled the Blue Devils even at 8-8 ahead of an eight-game finishing kick to the regular season, which will feature five games at the friendly confines of Blue Devil Gym. Quincy has settled into a nice playing rotation as each of the nine players in that rotation have grown comfortable with what’s expected from them.

“We’ve been improving since day 1,” said QHS coach Sean Taylor “I’ve been trying to tell people that we lost four starters from last year who played a majority of the minutes. We have a whole new team this year and they weren’t going to be great out of the blocks, but they’ve continued to work and they’re starting to play really well and know what their roles are and are playing their roles to a very high level.”

Just as it did in the win over Moline, defense was a big reason for the Blue Devils’ success against the Titans (14-2). After a bit of a slow start that saw Quincy trailing 13-12 after one quarter, the Blue Devils buckled down on defense in the second quarter. They limited the Titans to a lot of one-shot possessions. A 9-0 scoring run early in the quarter gave Quincy the lead, which grew to 31-21 by the halftime break.

In the third quarter, Quincy forced 11 Titans turnovers and Monmouth-Roseville made just 2 of 11 shots. As a result, the Blue Devils outscored the Titans 18-4 in the quarter to take a commanding 49-25 lead going into the fourth quarter.

“We put a lot of emphasis on our defense,” senior Zach Burry said. “Coach tells us that’s where we have to get our points. Our goal is to keep them under 50 because we’re not a high-scoring team. If we can keep them under 50 and cause a little havoc, then we have a really good chance to win the game.”

Taylor liked how the Blue Devils were able to turn that defense into offense in the third quarter.

“They were trying to extend (their defense), and we did a nice job of getting some run outs,” Taylor said. “Connor Mellon did a nice job of running the court. Our guys had their heads up and we got some easy layups and made them pay the price for trying to extend.”

Mellon powered his way to 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting and added a team-high eight rebounds. He was most impressed with the Blue Devils’ effort inside their zone defense. In addition to the 26 turnovers QHS forced, the Blue Devils got their hands on at least a half dozen passes that disrupted the Titans’ flow.

“We use anticipation to our advantage,” Mellon said. “We’re ready, we’re watching that ball and we’re on our toes. We’re getting really good at that defense. Those tips and deflections are what our defense is about. You might get a steal. The offense might get a little intimidated and say, ‘Oh, I can’t get that ball through there.'”

Titans coach Chuck Grant didn’t know what to make out of what he saw Saturday night.

“I never dreamed of coming down here and getting beat by 20,” he said. “That’s no disrespect at all to Sean and his kids. But the way we’ve been playing and the way we prepped, I thought we had three fabulous practices and I walked out of the gym last night thinking that this is as well as we prepped all year. I certainly didn’t expect this.”

Burry led the way for Quincy by scoring 22 points. Everyone in uniform played for Quincy and nine different players scored. Dillon Frieden had 14 points, while Martel Hunter added 12 to lead Monmouth-Roseville.

The Blue Devils, winners of three straight, will return to action Friday at Rock Island Alleman.

“The goal in the beginning (of the season) was to give a lot of people a lot of playing time and then around this time we’ll see where we can put them in and refine our roles,” Taylor said. “We are staring to do that and they’re starting to get really comfortable in what we want them to do.”

— dobrien@whig.com/221-3370