By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — Sean Taylor is open to suggestions.
And when it was suggested he start treating his pre-game speech more like a halftime talk, the Quincy High School boys basketball coach didn’t balk at the idea.
“We just have to find a way to get out of the gates quicker,” Taylor said.
Friday night, it looked like a crawl.
The Blue Devils attempted just four field goals in the second quarter, scored only 16 first-half points, trailed Rock Island by 16 points and nearly overcame it all before falling 50-44 in Western Big Six Conference action at the Rocky Fieldhouse.
“We’ve been a slow-starting team, really, the entire year,” Taylor said. “I don’t know if they need to be more relaxed or more intense. I thought we were really focused. We had a great week of practice. I thought they were focused in the locker room.
“So I don’t know what it is, but I’m certainly open to suggestions.”
Quincy (10-6, 2-3 WB6) has trailed at the end of the first quarter in five of its last six games and at halftime in four of those. Rock Island’s 30-16 edge at halftime marked the third time the Blue Devils found themselves down by 14 or more points at the break.
And all three times, they fought to get back into the game.
Only once, though, did the Blue Devils rally to win.
“You can’t play tentative,” Taylor said.
Rocky (10-8, 4-1) took advantage of that.
Quincy trailed 11-8 with 1 minute, 35 seconds remaining in the first quarter after Harrison Elbe saved a ball from going out of bounds in the corner in front of Rock Island’s bench and flipped it to DeAngelo Dean for a layin. Unfortunately for QHS, The hustle didn’t lead to any momentum.
The Rocks’ Marquel Beasley tipped in a missed 3-pointer for the final basket of the first quarter, and a 7-2 spurt to start the second quarter — sophomore Keenan Shorter scored twice and sophomore Trey
Sigel buried a 3-pointer — pushed the lead to double figures.
When the Blue Devils went the final 3:31 of the half without a basket, they were left with a mountain to climb.
“At halftime, I thought they were a little panicked,” Taylor said. “I do think they thought they were ready for this game.”
The intensity and effort changed in the second half as evidenced by Elbe, Mason Fairley and Martin Kvitle diving for a loose ball on the opening possession of the third quarter. By the end of that quarter, Quincy had whittled the deficit to nine points and given itself a chance.
“They were ready to fight to get back in this game,” Taylor said.
Ultimately, it put Rocky on its heels as Quincy closed within 44-42 on Kvitle’s 3-pointer with two minutes remaining in regulation.
“We had to (respond) because they had us on the ropes,” Rocks coach Thom Sigel said.
The teams traded baskets before Quincy had the chance to tie with 46 seconds remaining, but Dean, who led Quincy with 16 points, was blocked from behind by Beasley. After a turnover by Shorter, who dribbled the ball out of bounds in the backcourt, the Blue Devils tried to go back to Dean.
However, Rocky sophomore C.J. Carr picked off Fairley’s entry pass. Carr was fouled and made two free throws for a 48-44 lead with 28 seconds remaining. Kvitle missed a pair of 3-pointers on the ensuing possession, and Beasley hit two free throws to seal it.
It kept Rocky is a first-place tie with East Moline at the midway point of the WB6 season. The Panthers won at preseason league favorite Moline 46-35 as the Maroons played without WB6 scoring leader Anthony
Lindauer, who is suspended for five games for violating team rules.
“We’ve done what we’ve needed to do at home,” said Sigel, whose team is 4-0 at home in WB6 play. “The tough stretch is still ahead of us. From where we’re at, we’re pretty happy right now.”
The Blue Devils are in a tougher situation. They are two games out of first place in the WB6 with another road game looming next week at East Moline.
“We just have to play to win every game,” Taylor said. “We don’t have it in our control anymore. We just have to do what we can do. … We have to be prepared to win every game.”