By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
Mason Fairley answered with the confidence you’d expect from a starting guard on a Quincy High School boys basketball team that won 11 straight games at one point this season.
The ironic thing is the streak is a distant memory.
Just like first place in the Western Big Six Conference.
Just like the perception this team could give top-seeded Edwardsville a challenge in the Class 4A Granite City Regional.
Yet, Fairley remains confident the Blue Devils can be a contender despite all that has gone wrong in recent weeks.
“We’ve never lost our confidence,” Fairley said last week. “We believe in each other, and we believe we can win. No one in here is thinking any different.”
Hearing that gives Quincy coach Sean Taylor hope that what he sees isn’t misleading.
Taylor said he liked many of the things the Blue Devils did during their season-ending 61-47 loss at Rock Island last Friday night and has always felt this team will fight to the finish.
The challenge is cleaning up the defensive breakdowns and the offensive inconsistency that led to losses in five of Quincy’s final six games.
“We can’t play from behind,” Taylor said. “That’s what we’ve been doing. Our defense has to dig in and get stops and not allow teams to get the better of us.
“If we can buckle down and get stops and make teams work to score, we’ll be OK. We have to play with the lead and put the pressure on someone else. Too often lately we’ve been putting the pressure on ourselves.”
Well, the pressure is on Quincy’s experienced backcourt to give the Blue Devils an edge.
Martin Kvitle leads Quincy in scoring at 15.7 points per game and has been the best threat from the perimeter, knocking down 32 3-pointers. Still, he’s the only player averaging in double figures.
Fairley’s increased production has upped his scoring average to 7.2 points per game. No one else averages more than six points per game,
“We have to take it upon ourselves to get it done,” Kvitle said. “Mason and I have to lead this team with our effort and our intensity. Yeah, we need to score, but we need to play better defense and give more effort.
“There is nothing more to play for after this. I don’t want to regret not giving us every chance to win in the postseason.”
Taylor fully expects Kvitle and the rest of the Blue Devils to do that.
“The best thing about coaching this group is you know they are going to show up to work and give you their best effort,” Taylor said. “We’ve had some struggles, but they keep fighting. I fully expect them to fight until the final buzzer.”