By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
QUINCY — Quincy High School boys basketball coach Andy Douglas repeated himself to place emphasis on why the Blue Devils struggle in late-game situations.
“Unsure,” he said. “Unsure.”
Despite that, Douglas is fairly certain of this. If the Blue Devils keep putting themselves on the verge of success, eventually they will reap the rewards.
Friday night, though, was another fruitless ending.
Trailing Rock Island by a point with 1 minute, 40 seconds remaining in regulation, Quincy failed to take the lead on four consecutive possessions and had its final opportunity snuffed out when Rocky sophomore Jordan Rice stole the ball from QHS senior Jaeden Smith with two seconds remaining. Rice subsequently made two free throws to give the Rocks a 55-52 Western Big Six Conference victory at Blue Devil Gym.
“It’s definitely a killer,” said Smith, who scored seven of his team-leading 15 points in the fourth quarter. “I thought we had really good chances to score and could have put it in the net, but we came up with some unfortunate plays. We have to find a way to dig out that win.”
The Blue Devils (1-6, 1-2 WB6) are desperate for it. All six of their losses have been by six points or less, and Friday was the second time in a one-point game they have failed to execute on the final possession.
“I think some of the individuals are confident in what they want to accomplish and get done, and then we have some that are just not sure,” Douglas said. “The confidence isn’t there. It’s not easy when you’re 1-6 and losing games by six, three, one. It’s hard to have that confidence.”
Quincy turned the ball over on four of its final seven possessions and failed to score the final 3:10.
“It’s super frustrating because we know we’re capable of winning these games,” Smith said. “It comes down to a couple of turnovers that are costly for us, no matter what quarter it is. We have to handle the ball better.”
Turnovers gave Rock Island (6-3, 2-1 WB6) the advantage.
Lucas Reis put Quincy ahead 52-50 by making a pair of free throws with 3:10 to go. After JaMir Price pulled the Rocks within a point by splitting a pair of free throws, he stole the ball from Blue Devils freshman Jeremiah Talton and scored a layup in transition for a 53-52 lead with 1:40 to play.
Price, who has committed to Bradley, finished with a game-high 21 points.
“I’m proud of our toughness, not only to make some shots when we did, but to make the defensive plays down the stretch,” Rock Island coach Thom Sigel said.
The Rocks made a few. After a timeout with 1:18 to go, Reis stole the ball and looked to have a shot at making a go-ahead layup. Price hustled back to disrupt the play, and although the Blue Devils collected the offensive rebound, they subsequently turned the ball over.
A missed 3-point attempt by Quincy sophomore Brady Rupert with 25 seconds remaining was rebounded by Rock Island’s Andrew McDuffy. His missed front end of the 1-and-1 was rebounded by Jirehl Brock and Quincy called its final timeout with 20.6 seconds remaining.
The Blue Devils weren’t able to run anything toward the basket and Adonte Crider nearly lost possession in front of the Quincy bench when he was tied up and a jump ball was called. The Blue Devils retained possession and inbounded the ball to Smith, who took two dribbles and did a jump stop into the lane.
Rice stepped in and stripped him and was fouled with 1.1 seconds remaining.
“That looked like it was totally clean from where I was,” Sigel said. “That was quick hands. I don’t know how tell a kid, ‘Quit thinking and just play.’ But that was a situation where he just played and made a big play.”
Smith was trying to do the same.
“I have to try to play through the contact and try to find somebody next time,” Smith said.
Douglas is confident there will be a next time.
“I can’t tell them enough how much I believe in them as a group and how much I believe in them individually,” Douglas said. “One of these days it’s going to click. I hope it’s sooner rather than later.”
Rock Island 55, Quincy High School 52