By Bryan Gibbons Herald-Whig
QUINCY — The Quincy High School boys basketball players knew it wouldn’t be easy to replace Aaron Shoot.
Friday night, the efficieny of the offense made it easy to forget the senior guard wasn’t there.
Junior guard Jaeden Smith made five 3-pointers in the first quarter to spring the Blue Devils to an early lead in a 68-45 victory over Chicago Dunbar in the 47th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament at Blue Devil Gym.
“I was feeling good. During warmups I felt great, and it just carried over into the game,” said Smith, who went 8 of 14 from 3-point range and finished with a game-high 24 points. “We always want to start fast and come out strong to set the tone for the rest of the game.”
The rest of the Blue Devils (2-0) got the memo, as they went 9 of 11 from the field in the first eight minutes to build a 26-9 lead.
That was with Shoot sitting on the bench. After suffering a sprained left ankle during Thursday’s season opener against Providence St. Mel, Shoot was ruled out for the remainder of the weekend.
Quincy will face St. Louis Northwest Academy at 7:30 p.m. Saturday looking for a clean sweep of the tournament. The Hornets suffered a 72-59 loss to St. Mel on Friday night.
“We knew that we were playing without one of our biggest offensive threats,” QHS guard Jirehl Brock said. “Jaeden, being the shooter that he is, kept firing it up. Everybody builds off of that and everybody starts hitting.”
QHS maintained its lead in the second quarter to take a 39-25 advantage into halftime. Six different Blue Devils scored in the first 16 minutes.
“(Smith) was huge tonight. He had the confidence that we’ve come to know him to have,” QHS coach Andy Douglas said. “He stepped up and knocked down those outside shots. Still, we can’t expect one guy to carry the load for us. We were lucky to have a few different guys step up at random times to make plays for us.”
The lead grew to 55-35 after three quarters as the Blue Devils had 12 steals. QHS finished with 13 takeaways, led by Smith, Brock and Ben Amos with three apiece.
“I liked how we’re all over the place. We were flying around,” Douglas said. “Deflections give us energy, like gas to cars. Once we get those, we know we’re doing our job and getting in passing lanes.”
The Blue Devils emptied their bench in the fourth quarter without having a dropoff on the defensive end, as Dunbar had just two field goals in the final eight minutes that included a halfcourt heave that beat the final buzzer.
“Our program has hung its hat on defense,” Douglas said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the first guy or the last guy on the bench. We have a team that cares about getting stops.”
Brock finished with 10 points, while Adonte Crider had 14 points off the bench. Amos had nine points, a pair of blocks and eight rebounds as the Blue Devils outperformed the Mightymen 27-16 on the glass.