By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — By now, the Quincy High School boys basketball players hope everyone realizes never to count them out.
“We’re a four-quarter team,” senior forward DeAngelo Dean said.
Saturday night, in the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils were at their best.
An 11-0 run to start the final frame allowed Quincy to erase a five-point deficit and the Blue Devils held Champaign Central scoreless for more than six minutes in securing a weekend road sweep with a 54-51 victory at historic Combes Gym.
“I thought we showed a lot of guts,” Quincy coach Sean Taylor said. “We could have said, ‘We played hard, we played well and we lost.’ But our kids dug deep.”
The Blue Devils (13-6) had to after seeing the lead slip away.
A 10-0 run by the Maroons in the middle of the third quarter had given them a five-point lead and they extended it 42-34 on Clayton Jones’ 3-pointer with 1 minute, 40 seconds remaining. Dean answered with a three-point play and the Maroons missed two 3-point attempts in the final minute, setting the stage for Quincy’s comeback.
“We said let’s go back to practice, back to our two-minute games,” junior guard Mason Fairley said. “It’s four two-minute games. If we win every one, we win the game. We took it one possession at a time. Get a stop, get a score. Get a stop, get a score.”
That’s how it played out.
Mike Davis’ layin started the fourth-quarter scoring for Quincy, and after forcing a turnover in the frontcourt, Fairley tied the game with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 6:06 remaining. A missed 3-pointer by the Maroons led to Dean scoring from the low block for a 44-42 lead with 5:18 to go.
Central (13-7) missed two more 3-pointers, leading to buckets at the other end for Quincy as the Maroons went the first 4:57 of the fourth quarter without scoring and endured a scoring drought of 6:37. Central was 1 of 5 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter and 7 of 23 from long range overall. Part of the struggle was Quincy’s switch to a zone defense in the fourth quarter, the first time the Blue Devils ditched their traditional man-to-man defense the entire night.
“We went zone a little bit and that was sort of a crapshoot because they had made threes,” Taylor said. “We were hoping if they got open threes they would miss, and they missed a lot.”
Quincy wasn’t missing much — whether it was open shots or the open man.
The Blue Devils’ 7-of-11 shooting performance in the fourth quarter capped a night in which they shot 52.2 percent from the field (24 of 46) and had 19 assists.
“When we stand, it’s hard to score,” Dean said. “When everybody is hitting gaps, it’s great.”
Fairley and point guard Martin Kvitle led the Blue Devils with five assists apiece, but seven of the eight players who saw time had assists.
“Our guys are doing a great job of having their head up and playing toward the rim,” Taylor said. “And they are just unselfish. They’re playing really well together, and that’s a testament to them.”
They especially knew to get the ball to Dean. He went 12 of 19 from the field, finishing with 25 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots as he outplayed Central’s frontcourt of Corvon Butler, Xavier Martin and Jordan Caroline, who are all 6-foot-5 or taller.
The three Maroons combined for 20 points and 15 rebounds, going 8 of 18 from the field.
“I thought DeAngelo was a man inside,” Taylor said. “He was the best big against a team with several really good bigs.”
He had help. Fairley scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter and finished 3 of 4 from 3-point range. However, he hit two of the biggest shots down the stretch. First, he buried a 3-point from the left corner with 1:39 to go that put Quincy ahead 51-46.
Then, he made the first of two free throws with 23 seconds remaining to make it a three-point game.
“I stepped up there thinking, ‘Just like practice,'” Fairley said. “I make a hundred every day in practice. You just have to shoot it with confidence.”
Right now, the Blue Devils’ confidence is as high as it has been all season.