Posted: Feb. 25, 2016 12:55 am
By: Matt Shuckman
Although the Quincy High School boys basketball team entered 2016 with an 11-3 record and a little bit of swagger, one nagging concern remained.
Could the Blue Devils compete with the elite?
It was a fair question. All three of Quincy’s losses had come against state-ranked teams, and in each one, the Blue Devils were blitzed in the first quarter and never fully recovered. Quincy, which trailed only 15 seconds total in its first eight victories, got outscored 63-16 in the first quarter by Rock Island, Washington and Belleville Althoff.
The Blue Devils lost those games by an average of 15.3 points as well.
“At the beginning of those games, you’re like, ‘Gosh, man, what are we doing?'” senior point guard Mike Dade said.
“After the game and going into the next game, it’s something you learn from. It’s a process. At the beginning of the year, you’re not playing you’re best basketball.
“As the year progresses, you want games like that to humble you. It’s why when you get to the postseason you’re playing your best basketball.”
Few are playing better than the Blue Devils these days.
Last Friday’s 47-45 victory over Galesburg marked the third straight Friday Quincy has knocked off a state-ranked foe. The Blue Devils have won five games in a row, eight of their last nine contests and are on the verge of their first 20-win season since the 2011-12 season.
With a victory Friday night against Moline at Wharton Field House, Quincy would improve to 20-5 heading into the postseason and reach the 20-win plateau for the 51st time in program history.
“These wins have shown what this team is capable of,” Dade said. “I know my guys can do anything. We have the work ethic to do so and the drive and skill to achieve it. There’s not only a lot of confidence in me and my teammates, but just as a whole.
“We all believe we can do something.”
Second-year QHS coach Andy Douglas wholeheartedly believes that.
“One word there is probably is the biggest thing,” Douglas said. “That’s believe.”
He can’t be certain the Blue Devils undoubtedly believed they were good until they lost 63-56 at Galesburg when they whittled away a double-digit deficit and took a one-point lead into the fourth quarter. Although the offense struggled down the stretch, there seemed to be a new hope and vigor after that game.
There’s only been one loss since.
“When I looked at how we played Rocky the first time and how we played them the second time, and how we played at Galesburg and then here, every single one of those games we got better,” Douglas said. “That’s a coach’s dream.”
So is a team that never loses its focus.
The 20-victory season is important. The chance to share the Western Big Six Conference title is significant, too. Carrying momentum into the postseason is downright necessary.
Yet, the moment won’t get the better of the Blue Devils. No moment has.
“This is a group that never gotten too low when we’ve lost and never gotten too high when we’ve won big games,” Douglas said. “We’ve had some of both this year. They’re as consistent of a group as I’ve coached in that area. That’s going to carry them a long way.”