By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — Finishing the 33rd annual Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic with a 2-2 record won’t necessarily ruin the Quincy High School boys basketball team’s holiday celebration.
However, the leadup to New Year’s Eve might be a little less festive.
“It’s pretty crappy,” junior point guard Aaron Shoot said after the Blue Devils suffered a 52-49 loss to Decatur Eisenhower in Friday’s fifth-placce game.
Making matters worse was the fact Quincy struggled as much as it has offensively this season.
The Blue Devils shot just 26.1 percent from the field in the second half, failed to make a field goal the game’s final four minutes and committed 19 turnovers overall, including two in succession with a minute remaining in regulation and trailing by a point.
“I don’t know if we overlooked them, but we definitely came in a little … I can’t quite find the word for it,” Shoot said. “We were just not engaged enough.”
Quincy (11-3) led by 30-26 at halftime, but the lead evaporated within two minutes as the Blue Devils turned the ball over on two of their first three possessions of the third quarter. They followed up by turning the ball over on three of the first possessions of the fourth quarter.
Still, the game was tied at 42.
Eisenhower (7-4) finally took control when Qualyn Young scored five consecutive points — he had a tip-in and a layin during that sequence — to build a 48-43 lead with 4:24 to play. The Panthers never trailed again.
“If we’re not on defensively, if we’re not focused in and disciplined enough to get stops, we’re going to let teams hang around,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “If you let teams hang around, this is what happens.
“While it stinks to walk out of here 2-2 and you miss an opportunity at it, I think we learn a lot from it.”
Namely, the Blue Devils have to stay engaged defensively to keep teams out of the lane.
The Panthers shot 54.5 percent from the field and parlayed 15 steals into 20 fast break points. Eisenhower scored 21 points off turnovers and finished with 36 points in the paint, outscoring the Blue Devils by eight in that category.
“The pressure definitely got to us,” said Shoot, who had seven points, five assists, three steals and four turnovers. “We had plenty of turnovers that we usually don’t have. When you play a game and have that many turnovers and you have the soft turnovers that we had, you’re not going to win many games against good teams.
“We definitely need to take care of the ball better.”
Never was that more obvious than in the final 75 seconds.
Trailing by a point with 1:15 to play, Quincy forced Eisenhower to travel 20 feet from the basket, but Shoot lost the ball out of bounds coming up the right sideline. After another turnover by the Panthers seconds later, the Blue Devils had to inbound the ball from the baseline.
With two defenders blanketing Shoot, Quincy’s Jirehl Brock tried to throw over the top to Jaeden Smith. However, his pass hit the backside of the backboard and gave possession back to Eisenhower.
Stefon Jarrett’s layin off a backdoor cut put the Panthers up by three.
“We had a couple plays there where it was like, ‘What are we thinking?'” Shoot said. “We got a little bit out of control. That comes backs on me as the point guard. I have to do a better job of slowing everyone down and getting everyone back under control.”
When shots aren’t falling from the perimeter — Quincy was 2 of 8 from 3-point range — the Blue Devils need to go to their strength inside. Yet, Parker Bland and Garrett Gadeke combined to shoot 3 of 11 from the field with 10 total points in the second half.
That was after combining to go 8 of 13 from the field with 20 points in the first half. Bland finished with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Gadeke had 12 points and six rebounds.
“That’s when pounding the ball inside really comes into play,” Shoot said. “We’ve been really good at that all year, but we kind of got away from that.”