By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
QUINCY — Lucas Reis was as wide-eyed talking about the St. Louis Christian boys basketball team’s size as he was the first time he drove to the basket Thursday night and saw nothing but armpits and elbows.
“They’re tall,” the Quincy High School junior point guard. “That was brutal.”
It impacted every shot the Blue Devils attempted, no matter how far from the basket they were.
It wasn’t the only reason Quincy shot 27.2 percent from the field in a 54-48 loss on the opening night of the 48th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament at Blue Devil Gym, but the Blue Devils were forced to contend with 6-foot-10 freshman Tiki Musaka around the basket more than they planned because of the struggles on the perimeter.
Quincy shot just 21.2 percent from 3-point, missing its first six long-range attempts.
“Some of us played a little scared at first,” Quincy senior guard Jaeden Smith said after Quincy lost its season opener for the first time since 2012. “But they’re human. They play basketball just like us. We can’t be afraid to go up against guys like that.”
It’s easier to do so when you make a few shots.
The Blue Devils didn’t make a 3-pointer until freshman Jeremiah Talton came off the bench and knocked one down from the right wing with 2:40 to play in the first quarter, but they were trailing by seven points at the time. They missed three of their next four shots and found themselves down by nine after the first quarter.
The Cougars’ lead continued to grow. The Blue Devils missed four of their first five shots of the second quarter and trailed by as many as 15 points.
A floater in the lane by Smith and a 3-pointer from the right corner by Talton as time expired trimmed the deficit to 31-21 at halftime, giving the Blue Devils a glimmer of hope.
“We learned mental toughness,” Reis said. “We struggled in the first half and part of the second half, but we kept playing our game and playing together.”
They were forced to believe the shots would fall.
“I had remind some of the guys of that, and I had to remind myself of that,” said Smith, who had 11 points but went 4 of 22 from the field overall and 3 of 13 from 3-point range. “The coaches reminded me of that. It’s got to fall. It’s going to fall eventually.”
It just didn’t happen Thursday night.
The Blue Devils didn’t seize any momentum from Talton’s buzzer-beater, making just one of their first 12 shots of the second half. The one that went in was a rebound dunk by Jirehl Brock.
They were down 17 points before finding any rhythm, going on a 9-0 run to get within eight points with 1:31 to go in the third quarter. The Cougars scored the final four points of the quarter to regain some separation.
“All in all, the guys’ effort was there,” Christian coach Casey Autenrieth said. “Defensively, we did OK at moments. A lot of times we were giving guys open looks, but they weren’t hitting them tonight. Had they been hitting them, we would have been in trouble.”
The Cougars, who committed 27 turnovers, scored just one point over the game’s final three minutes, but the Blue Devils never got it closer than a two-possession game. They missed four of their final five shots and committed a critical turnover with 26 seconds remaining that stalled the rally.
“We have some fight,” said Quincy coach Andy Douglas, whose team will play Providence St. Mel on Friday night. “We already knew that, but we have to be better. Defensively, we have to be better. And we have to make shots.”
The Blue Devils have no doubt they will.
“That’s why we have teammates,” Reis said. “That’s why you pick each other up.”