By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — No one inside the Quincy High School boys basketball team’s locker room saw any reason to panic.
The Blue Devils trailed second-seeded Granite City by nine points at halftime of Tuesday night’s Class 4A Edwardsville Regional semifinal, and experience told them the easiest way to get back in the game was to take the simplest approach.
So third-seeded Quincy turned the second half into a series of two-minute games.
“Coach said we’ve been here time and time again,” Quincy junior guard Mason Fairley said after Quincy won seven of the eight two-minutes games in the second half of their 50-45 victory at Lucco-Jackson Gym. “We had to play the game one possession at a time. Two-minute games just like practice.
“That’s the story of the second half of our year. We’re so adept at
breaking the game down like that it’s just second nature for us.”
It brought out the best in the Blue Devils after arguably one of the toughest quarters of the season, and it gives them the chance to play for another day.
Quincy (20-6) advances to face top-seeded, state-ranked Edwardsville on its home floor at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the regional championship. The Blue Devils and Tigers have not met in the postseason since 2006, although Edwardsville eliminated Quincy in each of Sean Taylor’s first three seasons as head coach.
“This team is really good,” Quincy senior forward Mike Davis said of Edwardsville. “We have to go hard at it. We have to start out fast.”
That would be a stark contrast to Tuesday night.
The Blue Devils scored only once in the game’s first 3 minutes, 10 seconds and trailed for all but 16 seconds of the first quarter. However, the tide seemed to shift at the end of the first quarter.
DeAngelo Dean scored with just five seconds left, and after Granite City turned the ball over by stepping over the baseline on the ensuing inbounds play, Davis beat the buzzer with a layin off a Dean assist to cut Quincy’s deficit to 13-12.
The momentum was short-lived. The Warriors, who beat Quincy 41-40 in the Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic in December, took advantage of two offensive rebounds on the first possession of the second quarter by getting an Omar Walker 3-pointer from the left wing that kickstarted a 10-1 run.
It was one of two times in the second quarter the Granite City lead ballooned to at least 10 points.
“The difference was the energy we had,” said Davis, whose 10-foot jumper in the lane was Quincy’s only field goal of the second quarter. “We came out kind of soft.”
Halftime offered the perfect chance to regroup.
“We wanted to be the dictators (of tempo) in the second half,” Taylor said.
So the Blue Devils turned to their defense to do that.
After allowing Granite City to shoot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range in the first half, Quincy tightened up. The Warriors scored only one point the first 5:44 of the second half, missing their first four shots while committing six turnovers. Overall, Granite City shot 29.4 percent from the field (5 of 17) and 22.2 percent from 3-point range (2 of 9) in the second half.
“Coach said to play to our strengths,” Fairley said. “The first thing he said when he walked in (the locker room at halftime) was, ‘Do what you do.'”
And that is playing tenacious defense and attacking the basket. Often, the two go hand-in-hand.
Trailing by five with two minutes left in the third quarter, the Blue Devils went on an 8-2 run, highlighted by Fairley’s 13-foot pull-up jumper in transition and his nifty drive-and-dish to Davis for a layin with three seconds to play that gave Quincy its first lead at 35-34.
“They’ve been there before and they’ve found ways to get back in it,” Taylor said. “You talk about trust and belief, and these guys live it.”
It carried over to the fourth quarter.
The Blue Devils answered a 3-pointer by Garcia with another Davis layin as he scored 11 of his game-high 17 points in the second half. Then Dean split a pair of free throws with 6:29 to go to give Quincy the lead for good.
The separation came when the Blue Devils scored on five consecutive possessions — all five field goals came within 3 feet of the basket — to take a
48-40 lead with two minutes to play.
“We got the energy up and played like we know how,” Davis said. “We got the win.”