By David Adam Herald-Whig
Jirehl Brock only scored two baskets Saturday night, but you would need to take off your shoes and socks to count all of the plays he affected on the defensive end.
Brock’s menacing presence at the top of Quincy High School’s 1-2-2 zone frustrated the Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball team during the Blue Devils’ 68-50 victory in Blue Devil Gym.
Statistics aren’t typically kept on the number of deflected balls, tipped passes and shooters harassed, but Brock was ever-present every time the Raiders tried to dent that zone.
“He just flies around,” QND senior forward Jared Mayfield said. “He has a ton of energy, and he’s not afraid to get in there and bang.”
Blue Devils coach Andy Douglas smiles and shakes his head when he thinks of the defensive impact Brock has.
“I look at our bench sometimes and think, ‘How the heck did he read that?'” Douglas said. “He’s got a knack for it. Early on (this season), the energy wasn’t there, but he was just waiting for his time. Energy-wise, playing the middle of the paint, that’s what we have to have to make our zone effective.”
The Raiders solved the Blue Devils’ zone riddle in the first quarter, taking a 15-12 lead. Carter Cramsey and Justin Bottorff both knocked down 3-pointers in that quarter.
However, the Raiders missed nine of their 10 shots from beyond the arc thereafter. It’s becoming a point of concern for them. QND missed 26 of 31 3-pointers this week against Palmyra and QHS, and it is shooting 20.7 percent (17 for 82) from 3-point range this season.
“It was a two-possession game entering the fourth quarter, but when we started chasing some threes to get those two possessions back, that’s when we lost it,” Raiders coach Kevin Meyer said. “That’s probably a thing we do against the zone right now. What we have to do is get it in the paint and do some fun stuff.
“I give (the Blue Devils) a ton of credit, but we have to figure some things out.”
When the Raiders got the ball in the middle of the zone, Mayfield and Wade Willer were effective, combining for eight baskets.
“We should have just kept attacking instead of settling for threes,” Mayfield said.
The Raiders were more successful attacking the basket when Parker Bland and Garrett Gadeke, the Blue Devils’ pair of 6-foot-4 post players, were on the bench with two fouls each in the second quarter. When they were on the floor in the second half, however, QND found few lanes to drive.
“If you get the ball in the middle, everything sucks in, and we can kick to shooters or go to the basket,” Meyer said. “If we could have got Garrett or Parker with their third foul, that could have been a turning point.”
Gadeke and Bland played the second half with just one foul between them, and they combined for 12 rebounds as the Blue Devils often limited the Raiders to one shot.
“They haven’t seen a defense like ours,” Brock said. “All five guys on the court are quick enough to get to their shooters, and I felt like it frustrated them all night. You could tell by their body language and the way they were making passes. They were getting scared to shoot. They would pump fake a lot, but all that did was make it easier for us to get to them.”
The zone didn’t bother the Raiders as much in the third quarter because the tempo of the game picked up, leading to more fast breaks. QND trailed by six early in the third quarter but took the lead at 39-38 on Mayfield’s post-up basket with 3:55 left in the quarter.
But the Raiders scored just one more basket in the third quarter, then missed 11 of their first 12 shots in the fourth quarter. QND had shot 60 percent or better from 2-point range in four of its first six games, but it finished Saturday’s game with 17 baskets on 50 shots. It was held 19 points below its season scoring average of 69.
“We just didn’t execute very well tonight,” said Bottorff, who missed nine of 11 shots and scored eight points — 10 below his season average. “I mean, it’s obviously a good zone, and they’re a great team, but it was us. We were throwing bad passes out of it.
“We were out of our heads. We were too worried about other stuff, and we didn’t have good composure in the second half (the Raiders were whistled for two technical fouls). I think this is going to make us stronger and we’ll get better. There will be more times this season when we feel pressure, and a game like this will help us.”