State Ranked

0128139095406_largePosted by mschuckman – January 10, 2013

When the Quincy High School boys basketball players learned they had cracked the Class 4A state poll, there was a moment of pride.

“We’re surprised we’re No. 8, but we worked hard for it,” senior guard Cole Abbey said.

They know they can’t be satisfied by it.

“That’s just a number,” senior guard Martin Kvitle said. “We can’t look at that and think that’s it. We have bigger, better things we need to have on our minds.”

Still, Quincy’s first state ranking since Illinois went to a four-class system should be motivation to make the second half of the season just as memorable as the first.

The Blue Devils (11-2) strung together an 11-game winning streak — the second-longest streak in Sean Taylor’s 10 seasons as head coach — while reaching the championship game of the 29th annual Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic and starting Western Big Six Conference play 3-0.

“I want them to appreciate it because it says something about how they’ve developed as players and as a team,” Taylor said. “When it’s all said and done, you better bring it on Friday and Saturday nights. I know it’s cliche, but it doesn’t matter what you’re ranked when the ball goes up.

“It’s a good reward for everything they’ve done thus far, and hopefully they’ll work to improve even more.”

Quincy finds itself in familiar company. Edwardsville is ranked fifth, Belleville East is sixth and Rock Island is seventh. Throw in No. 4 Chicago Heights Marian Catholic, which visits Blue Devil Gym this Saturday, and the Blue Devils can gauge just how well they stack up.

“We have the chance, I think, to be really good,” Kvitle said.

Collinsville Wrap-Up

0128139095406_largeMartin Kvitle didn’t agree with the call, but he’d make the play again.

Three minutes into Saturday night’s championship game of the 29th annual Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic, East St. Louis guard DeShawn Munson stole a ball in the backcourt and attacked the rim, looking to dunk. Kvitle, Quincy High School’s senior point guard, blocked Munson and knocked the Flyers standout to the Vergil Fletcher Gym floor in the process.

Kvitle was called for a flagrant foul while Munson went to the line and made 1 of 2 free throws. Munson scored on the ensuing possession as part of the Flyers’ 8-0 run to open the game that propelled them to a 60-52 victory.

“We have to make fouls like I did,” Kvitle said. “There should be no easy layups. It was a questionable call (whether it was intentional). Back in the day, that’s just a foul. But you can’t blame the refs. You have to play hard. You have to make plays like that.”

It set the tone for a physical, aggressive and sometimes chippy game.

With the Blue Devils trailing 52-43 in the final two minutes, Quincy’s Cole Abbey made a steal near midcourt and was hip-checked into the scorer’s table. The Quincy bench wanted a flagrant fouled called. Instead, Quincy coach Sean Taylor was slapped with a technical foul when he jumped up and down in disgust.

The technical didn’t factor much into the outcome. Abbey made two free throws after the foul, while East St. Louis made 1 of 2 free throws and then failed to scored on the ensuing possession.

Mellon to sit next game

Quincy junior forward Connor Mellon will serve a one-game suspension when the Blue Devils face Rock Island Alleman Jan. 11 at Blue Devil Gym.

With 3:43 remaining against East St. Louis, Mellon was called for elbowing East St. Louis forward Terry Beckner as they worked for position in the post. Mellon was given a technical foul and ejected.

The reaction of the Quincy crowd led to one fan being walked away by school personnel and another fan being escorted from gym by police officers.

In the record book

Kvitle added his name to the tournament record book by going 10 for 10 from the free-throw line.

He becomes the 13th player in tournament history to finish with a 1.000 free throw percentage in a single game. To qualify, a player must have at least 10 attempts.

Kvitle joins two other Quincy players on the list. Jack Kramer went 13 of 13 from the line against Chicago Julian in 1985. James Bailey went 10 for 10 against East St. Louis Lincoln in 1986.

The all-tournament team

Belleville East forward Malcolm Hill, who has signed with Illinois, was named the tournament MVP. Hill led the top-seeded Lancers to third place while averaging 27.5 points and 3.5 blocked shots per game.

Kvitle and Cole Abbey were both named to the all-tournament team. Kvitle averaged 15.3 points and Abbey averaged 17.3 points for the Blue Devils.

The rest of the all-tournament team included Munson, East St. Louis forward Johnny McCray, Collinsville guard Falando Wilkinson, Springfield Southeast guard Herman Senor, Granite City guard Omar Walker, Dunlap forward Alex Sorenson, Lincoln guard Max Cook and Riverview Gardens guard Tyrin Williams.

Quincy Versus Southeast

0128139095406_largeTrailing third-seeded Springfield Southeast by three points at halftime in Friday night’s quarterfinals of the 29th annual Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic, the Quincy High School boys basketball team knew one way to turn the tide.

The Blue Devils had to get better on the boards.

Quincy was outrebounded 18-12 in the first half and gave up seven offensive rebounds. However, a spirited effort led by 6-foot-7 senior forward Jason Salrin changed that. The Blue Devils limited the Spartans to two offensive boards in the second half and outrebounded them 19-14 over the final 16 minutes in earning a 51-44 victory.

Salrin posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, overcoming foul trouble to be one of the biggest factors on the floor.

“Jason was a beast on the glass for us,” Quincy coach Sean Taylor said. “I thought his willingness to attack the glass was impressive.”

Salrin picked up his fourth foul with 4 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the third quarter and sat the remainder of the period. He returned to the lineup at the start of the fourth quarter, played aggressive and stayed in the game.

Playing from behind

After enduring a scoreless stretch of nearly five minutes during the second quarter, the Blue Devils were forced to play from behind. Not that it bothered them much.

“Coach sets us goals, saying we need to be tied by this time, get a bigger lead by this much time,” Salrin said. “We have our goals and we achieve them.”

Quincy trailed by as many as six points late in the second quarter and began the third quarter down by three. It took the Blue Devils 3:35 to tie the game and 5:22 to regain the lead. After a series of lead changes and ties, Quincy took the lead for good on Martin Kvitle’s layup with 4:24 to play.

It kickstarted an 8-0 run that gave the Blue Devils control.

“I thought we learned how to play against them,” Taylor said. “In the late first and early second quarters, they sped us up and we made some poor decisions. After that, we got it to the rim or made a backup dribble when it wasn’t there. We learned what to do.”

A big embrace

In the closing seconds, Taylor replaced Cole Abbey with Lincoln Elbe, and as Abbey came to the bench, the Quincy coach grabbed his senior guard, gave him a hearty hug and reminded Abbey his commitment to defense was big reason the Blue Devils won.

“I just thought he really competed,” Taylor said. “They all competed, but Cole has made so many big strides from last season to this season, and I don’t think he’s reached his ceiling.”

Abbey’s task Friday night was to slow Southeast guard Jagger Anderson, who scored just five points over the final 12 minutes. Instead of trying to strip Anderson of the ball, Abbey maintained his position

“The main reason I was proud of him is often he tries to pick it and take the easy way out,” Taylor said. “This time, he kept Anderson in front of him, and that wasn’t easy. If he can guard like that, he can guard Rocky and quick teams that we are going to play.”

Quincy Versus Dunlap

0128139095406_largeThree minutes into Thursday’s opening round game of the 29th annual Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic, the Quincy High School boys basketball team hadn’t scored and looked discombobulated on offense.

Luka Radovic and Barnell Thomas helped change that.

The junior forwards came off the bench near the five-minute mark with the Blue Devils trailing 6-0 and played a pivotal part of a seven-point run that alleviated the stress. Radovic scored Quincy’s first basket, catching a pass from Mason Fairley on the block and aggressively turning and attacking the rim.

Two possessions later, Thomas caught a Martin Kvitle pass at the free-throw line and didn’t hesitate in burying a 15-foot jumper that gave Quincy the lead. Although the lead changed hands eight more times, their energy off the bench was a pivotal part of the Blue Devils’ 52-43 victory.

“Once we got on the board, we knew there wasn’t a cap on the rim,” Fairley said. “Our confidence slowly grew. That first possession when we got some points on the board, we thought, ‘OK, here we go.’”

It’s because Radovic and Thomas came in ready to play.

“They were really good and they played a great stretch,” Quincy coach Sean Taylor said.

They knew it was expected.

“It’s important for us to give us a spark being the first two subs,” Thomas said. “We have to have that energy. It’s just important for us.”

No need for threes

The Blue Devils aren’t a prolific shooting bunch, averaging four 3-pointers made per game. Yet, they’ve been able to use the trey to loosen up defenses most of the time.

That wasn’t the case against the Eagles.

Quincy didn’t make a 3-pointer for the first time this season, and the Blue Devils attempted only three shots from behind the arc. In fact, they didn’t attempt a 3-pointer the final 15 minutes when attacking the rim and getting to the free-throw line mattered more.

The Blue Devils went 18 of 28 from the line and went 6 of 8 from the line in the final three minutes.

Playing off each other

Now 10 games into the season and on a nine-game winning streak, the Blue Devils continue to show the chemistry of a team capable of winning 20 games and a conference crown.

Despite struggling offensively, the timing and ability to play off each other was still there.

With 22 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Quincy forward Jason Salrin set a pick for Kvitle at the high post and and rolled to the basket. When his defender jumped to the middle of the lane to cut Kvitle off, Salrin was left open for a layin.

A similar play happened again at the end of the first half. Kvitle attacked the middle of the lane and dumped a pass to Cole Abbey for a layup, foul and three-point play.

The Blue Devils finished with 10 assists on 17 field goals

Blue Devils’ relentless defense leads to win over Batavia

0128139095406_largeBy BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer

The Quincy High School boys basketball team didn’t lose its focus.

Facing a methodical Batavia squad, the Blue Devils leaned on relentless defense to secure a 50-42 non-conference win Saturday night at Blue Devil Gym.

“Mental toughness was the key for us,” QHS senior guard Mason Fairley said. “You have to keep your focus. We talked today about how this team likes to run around a little bit, and you have to stay disciplined the whole possession. You have to play defense the whole possession.”

The Blue Devils (4-1) also had to make the most of their offensive possessions considering their opportunities were more limited than usual based on the slow nature of the game.

Although QHS shot only 37.5 percent from the field, the Blue Devils protected the basketball and consistently made their way to the free-throw line.

QHS committed only 10 turnovers — compared to 16 for Batavia — and was 18 of 28 from the charity stripe. The Bulldogs (2-3) were 3 of 4 from the foul line.

“We knew it was going to be a grind-it-out game,” said QHS coach Sean Taylor, whose team came into the game averaging 63.5 points per game. “We chose to play it maybe a little more conservative and grind it out, and we thought our guys would rise to the challenge of guarding every possession.”

The Blue Devils did that especially well in the second half.

Batavia made only six of its 18 fourth-quarter field-goal attempts and shot just 37 percent overall.

“You just have to dig down and guard,” QHS senior guard Martin Kvitle said. “It takes a lot of team defense to beat a team like that because they’re disciplined, they’ll run backdoor (cuts) and every one of those kids could create off the dribble.”

Kvitle helped seal the win by going 7 of 8 from the free-throw line in the final 1:03.

“We were shooting free throws, and they were having to shoot jump shots,” Kvitle said. “It’s nice having the lead when it’s a close game.”

Kvitle scored a game-high 21 points and was the only Blue Devil in double figures.

“(Kvitle) is as good of guard as I think we’ll play all year,” Batavia coach Jim Nazos said.

It was a Kvitle steal during the fourth quarter that led to a momentum-building play for the Blue Devils. Kvitle had a fastbreak opportunity off of his forced turnover and considered going up for a dunk. Instead, he opted to go for a layup, but his shot wouldn’t fall.

Senior guard Cole Abbey was trailing the play and elevated to flush down the missed layup with a two-handed slam that put QHS ahead 42-38 with 3:15 to play.

“Thank God he was there because he saved me a butt-chewing,” Kvitle said.

The dunk never would have happened had Abbey assumed Kvitle would make the layup. That fact wasn’t lost on Taylor.

“Last year, Cole wouldn’t have made the effort to sprint, and this year he made the effort,” Taylor said.

Abbey, who scored nine points, generated a key defensive stop near the end of the third quarter.

With about 50 seconds left in the quarter, Abbey stole the ball and had a fastbreak. He too missed the layup, but Fairley collected the rebound, was fouled and made two free throws to put QHS ahead 30-29.

Batavia’s next possession also resulted in a turnover, giving QHS the final possession of the quarter, and Connor Mellon scored on a putback just before the buzzer to cap a 6-0 run that gave the Blue Devils a 32-29 lead. QHS never trailed again.

QHS’s finish to the third quarter was a stark contrast from the first and second quarters. In those quarters, Batavia held the ball for the final possession.

Micah Coffey, who led Batavia with 12 points, capped the final first-quarter possession with a 3-pointer, and Luke Horton knifed his way into the paint for a basket just before the second-quarter buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 19-18 halftime lead.

“Those (final possessions) are momentum builders,” Nazos said. “We always like to get the last one of the quarter, and we didn’t in the third (quarter).”

— btoppmeyer@whig.com/221-3367

Salrin Enjoys Career Night

0128139095406_largeStride for stride, there aren’t many players in the Western Big Six Conference who can get up and down the floor the way Jason Salrin does.

Friday night, he showed just how much of an advantage it is to be 6-foot-7 and able to run the floor effortlessly.

With the Quincy High School boys basketball team locked in a WB6 battle with Galesburg, Salrin scored two layups in transition during a 12-2 run early in the fourth quarter the propelled the Blue Devils to a 54-51 victory at Blue Devil Gym.

“He really is out-athleticizing most big guys,” Quincy senior guard Mason Fairley said. “At 6-6 and with his frame, he’s going to be a pretty big influence on the game offensively in the full court stretching it out.”

It was part of a career night for Salrin, who went 5 of 7 from the field and scored a career-high 10 points. He also grabbed four rebounds, played quality help-side defense against Galesburg’s Grant Gibson, who is the WB6′s leading scorer, and made it difficult for the Silver Streaks to score inside.

“We’ve been waiting for him to break out,” Fairley said.

One and done

Holding a two-point edge going into the fourth quarter, Galesburg saw the lead quickly evaporate as the Silver Streaks made just one of their first eight shots from the field and corralled just one offensive rebound. Technically, Galesburg had two offensive boards in the sequence, but one came as Quincy’s Cole Abbey snared the rebound and landed out of bounds.

So in reality, the Silver Streaks got their hands on an offensive board just once in the first 5-plus minutes of the fourth quarter.

Overall, Quincy outrebounded Galesburg 33-23, giving up just four offensive boards the first three quarters. Connor Mellon led Quincy with 11 rebounds, while five other Blue Devils had at least three rebounds apiece.

Fly swatters

Last week, the shortest player on the Quincy roster got into the act when sophomore guard Lincoln Elbe blocked a shot against United Township. This week, the big men reminded everyone of their presence. Salrin and 6-7 sophomore Luka Radovic both blocked shots as Quincy racked up three more swats.

The Blue Devils have combined for 18 blocks this season with seven different players getting swats.

The sophomores

Carson Gay made two free throws in the final 12 seconds of regulation to help the Quincy sophomore team hold off Galesburg with a 57-52 victory, giving first-year head sophomore coach Chris Harmann his first WB6 victory.

2012 boys basketball Player of the Year: A father’s influence keeps QHS’s Dean on right path

DeAngelo DeanThomas Dean took the message to heart.

He believes his sons are doing the same.

Growing up in Richmond, Va., where Dean said trouble easily could be found, his mother constantly reminded him and his siblings they’re known by the company they keep.

“You can get in a bad situation and mess your name up for life,” said Dean, whose son, DeAngelo, has made a name for himself playing football and basketball at Quincy High School. “It’s a tragedy to those who have had their name tarnished because they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. That happens.

“Like my mother told me, I always tell my boys to keep a good name.”

That means making some tough choices.

Within the last year or so, DeAngelo, a senior who earned All-Western Big Six Conference honors in both sports, needed to distance himself from some of his closest friends because of their involvement in drugs. On the advice of his father, Dean walked away from the trouble brewing.

“That was tough at first because they were my friends since diapers,” Dean said. “I had a decision, and I made the right decision.”

It helped he got the right advice.

“My dad told me to stay home and hit the books,” said DeAngelo, the 6-foot-5 forward who developed into the most dominant post player in the WB6 this winter and has being named the 2012 Herald-Whig Player of the Year. “He told me, ‘You don’t need to be around them. When they get off that stuff, you can go back to them.’

“I’m so glad he pushed me. If he wasn’t here, I’d probably be in the position they are right now.”

Instead, he’s mulling college scholarship offers with the chance to play either sport and get an education.

“If I didn’t have my dad, I wouldn’t be here today,” Dean said. “I don’t know what I’d be doing, but I certainly wouldn’t be as good as I am.”

Developing into a force

Coming off his junior year in which Dean led the Blue Devils in scoring and was their lone All-WB6 representative, expectations were high.

On Thanksgiving night, they skyrocketed.

Quincy opened the season with a 77-42 victory over St. Louis Normandy in which Dean finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Yet, it was Dean’s signature moment — a one-handed dunk off an alley-oop midway through the first quarter — that electrified Blue Devil Gym.

“So sweet,” Dean later described the moment.

Such a moment had been a long time coming.

Despite his size and length, Dean had never dunked in a game. So last summer, with the help of his father and several others, Dean learned to dunk.

“We started on low rims and kept going up and up,” he said.

Dean kept rising, too.

He had two dunks in the opener, which led to a promise he made after the game to get two dunks per game the rest of the season. That didn’t work out just as he had planned, but he provided enough highlight-reel plays to earn third-team all-state honors from the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association and honorable mention all-state from the Associated Press.

“He’s a monster,” point guard Martin Kvitle said of Dean, who averaged 17.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game. “He does things because he’s so long and so athletic we all wish we could do.”

He’s fearless as well.

Maturation process

Dean spent almost every day last summer in the gym, usually with his brother, Tomas, and his dad. A senior on last year’s team, Tomas is a jitterbug-quick guard who forced his brother to learn to play perimeter defense.

“Guarding smaller players is no big deal,” Dean said. “I’m not going to be scared because I can guard my brother.”

However, getting the better of his dad is a different story.

Thomas Dean’s first love is football, and he volunteers as an assistant coach with the QHS football program. He instilled in his sons the competitive drive that he carries.

“He showed no slack on us no matter what we were doing or what we were playing,” DeAngelo said. “No mercy.”

That inspired DeAngelo to challenge his dad on the field, the court or anywhere.

“I want to show him I can do everything he can do … only better,” DeAngelo said.

That’s easier said than done.

“I think I’m going to try him again soon,” DeAngelo said. “Last time, it didn’t work too well.”

Regardless of the outcome, DeAngelo realizes the time spent with his dad made him a better player and a better person.

“I never thought I would be this good,” said DeAngelo, who was cut from the Quincy Junior High School teams in seventh and eighth grade. “My freshman year I began to see it, and I wanted to do it. I wanted to become a better player. My dad helped me make that happen.”

In turn, Thomas has watched his son mature.

“In every way,” Thomas said. “I’m proud of the way he has handled the expectations and pressures. He’s becoming a man.”

He had the advantage of being shown how to act.

“I feel like I owe my dad,” DeAngelo said. “If not for him, who knows how things would be.”

He doubts the opportunity to choose his future would be there.

Tough choice

The commitment in the weight room and the gym during the offseason turned Dean into a physical force, and that caught the eye of college coaches throughout the Midwest.

He’s mulling an offer to play football from Northern Iowa and has drawn interest from other Missouri Valley Football Conference schools. Lindenwood has talked to him about the possibility of playing both sports, and Lincoln Land Community College is actively pursuing him to play basketball.

Other schools have made their pitches, too.

“This is the biggest choice of my life,” Dean said.

It’s not an easy one, either.

“I don’t want to give up the court,” Dean said. “I’m putting in so much work for both sports, just to give one up is tough.”

Yet, he also sees the advantage of concentrating on one sport.

“If I do just one sport, and lift all year long and work on that one sport, just think how good I can be,” Dean said. “I’ve got four years to do that. I’m imagining my fourth year and what it’s going to look like.”

It could be better than anything he’s ever imagined.

Dean has dreams, such as possibly developing into an NFL-caliber defensive end or outside linebacker should be choose to play football. He also knows he is going to get an education. That’s an invaluable asset, something that wouldn’t be possible if he hadn’t stayed on the straight and narrow.

All he needed was the right person to keep him there.

“My dad has done so much for me,” Dean said. “I have to take advantage of that.”

Cake From Gary Phillips – Former Blue Devil

0304126060201_largeThe Quincy Blue Devil basketball team was surprised Friday before their regional final with a cake from former Quincy High Blue Devil alumni Gary Phillips -Class Of 1957. Phillips was a Blue Devil All-State basketball player who went on to become the first All-American at Houston University. Gary Phillips was drafted by the
Boston Celtics in 1961 and finished his career with the San Francisco (Now Golden State) Warriors in the NBA.

Poor shooting leads to Devils’ demise in regional title game

0303124043423_largeBy MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writer

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — Knowing they might have to face Edwardsville’s spread-the-floor and slow-it-down attack, the Quincy High School basketball players wanted to know the best way to defend it.

Quincy coach Sean Taylor had only one piece of advice.

“Don’t get down,” he told them at Thursday’s practice.

If only it had been that easy.

A 4-for-21 shooting performance in the first half left the Blue Devils trailing Friday night’s Class 4A Edwardsville Regional championship game the final 28 minutes, and back-to-back three-point plays by the Tigers early in the fourth quarter provided the separation that led to a 59-43 victory at Lucco-Jackson Gym.

“They’re so disciplined,” Quincy guard Martin Kvitle said of top-seeded Edwardsville. “They don’t make mistakes that let you get back in the game.”

The Tigers hardly had a misstep in the second half. Edwardsville’s starting five went 11 of 15 from the floor, 2 of 3 from 3-point range and 17 of 18 from the free-throw line with just three turnovers the final 16 minutes, outscoring Quincy’s starting five 42-22.

Edwardsville (22-5) scored on 14 of 16 fourth-quarter possessions before Tigers coach Mike Waldo emptied the bench.

“Our guys pass the ball well and look for each other well,” said Waldo, whose team will face Belleville West in Tuesday’s sectional semifinals at Collisnville. “I thought Quincy chased the ball well, but that’s hard to do when you have five guys on the floor who can handle the ball. I thought they did a good job of chasing us, but we were solid with the ball.”

The Tigers were clutch when it counted, too.

Trailing by as many as seven points in the third quarter, the Blue Devils (20-7) narrowed the gap to 27-24 when Mason Fairley hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 50 seconds left. The Tigers spread the floor, milked the clock and put the ball in the hands of sophomore point guard Shawn Roundtree as the seconds dwindled.

Roundtree drove to the high post and kicked to Josh White in the right corner for a 3-pointer with three seconds left to give Edwardsville a two-possession lead.

“I thought that was the tide-turning moment,” Taylor said. “I think that gave them momentum. I think our guys thought they were playing great. But we’re down six and then they get into their delay game, and that’s just so tough to guard.”

For a moment, though, Quincy looked like it might weather the storm.

On the opening possession of the fourth quarter, Fairley set up Mike Davis for a layin and a three-point play to trim Edwardsville’s lead to 30-27. The Tigers knew how to answer.

On back-to-back possessions, Edwardsville got behind Quincy’s defense, scored on layins and made free throws to finish off three-point plays that pushed the lead to eight. The Blue Devils’ uphill climb turned into scaling a mountain.

“That kind of deflated us,” Fairley said. “And it’s tough to come back on a team that is making free throws.”

It’s even harder when you’re not making shots.

Quincy shot just 26 percent from the floor (13 of 50) and 25 percent from 3-point range (4 of 16). DeAngelo Dean, who was shooting 56 percent from the field on the season, was the Blue Devils’ only double-digit scorer with 14 points, but he was 5 of 18 from the field.

Kvitle, the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.7 points per game, finished with just three and was 0 for 6 from the field.

In contrast, Edwardsville had four players in double figures, and the starting five combined to shoot 54.5 percent from the field.

“We were able to spread the floor and dictate,” Waldo said. “That gave us good looks.”

It continued a trend as well. Edwardsville, which won its ninth regional title in the last 10 years, has eliminated Quincy from the postseason in four of Taylor’s nine seasons as head coach.

That’s a trend Taylor wants to see end.

“It would be nice,” he said.

More shots need to fall, though, when the game is in balance. Five times, Quincy cut the deficit to one possession. Four times, the Blue Devils failed to score on their next possession.

“We had opportunities to win the game, and that’s all we can ask for,” Fairley said.

Blue Devils dissect Granite City in regional opener

0229125055248_largeBy MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writer

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — No one inside the Quincy High School boys basketball team’s locker room saw any reason to panic.

The Blue Devils trailed second-seeded Granite City by nine points at halftime of Tuesday night’s Class 4A Edwardsville Regional semifinal, and experience told them the easiest way to get back in the game was to take the simplest approach.

So third-seeded Quincy turned the second half into a series of two-minute games.

“Coach said we’ve been here time and time again,” Quincy junior guard Mason Fairley said after Quincy won seven of the eight two-minutes games in the second half of their 50-45 victory at Lucco-Jackson Gym. “We had to play the game one possession at a time. Two-minute games just like practice.

“That’s the story of the second half of our year. We’re so adept at

breaking the game down like that it’s just second nature for us.”

It brought out the best in the Blue Devils after arguably one of the toughest quarters of the season, and it gives them the chance to play for another day.

Quincy (20-6) advances to face top-seeded, state-ranked Edwardsville on its home floor at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the regional championship. The Blue Devils and Tigers have not met in the postseason since 2006, although Edwardsville eliminated Quincy in each of Sean Taylor’s first three seasons as head coach.

“This team is really good,” Quincy senior forward Mike Davis said of Edwardsville. “We have to go hard at it. We have to start out fast.”

That would be a stark contrast to Tuesday night.

The Blue Devils scored only once in the game’s first 3 minutes, 10 seconds and trailed for all but 16 seconds of the first quarter. However, the tide seemed to shift at the end of the first quarter.

DeAngelo Dean scored with just five seconds left, and after Granite City turned the ball over by stepping over the baseline on the ensuing inbounds play, Davis beat the buzzer with a layin off a Dean assist to cut Quincy’s deficit to 13-12.

The momentum was short-lived. The Warriors, who beat Quincy 41-40 in the Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic in December, took advantage of two offensive rebounds on the first possession of the second quarter by getting an Omar Walker 3-pointer from the left wing that kickstarted a 10-1 run.

It was one of two times in the second quarter the Granite City lead ballooned to at least 10 points.

“The difference was the energy we had,” said Davis, whose 10-foot jumper in the lane was Quincy’s only field goal of the second quarter. “We came out kind of soft.”

Halftime offered the perfect chance to regroup.

“We wanted to be the dictators (of tempo) in the second half,” Taylor said.

So the Blue Devils turned to their defense to do that.

After allowing Granite City to shoot 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range in the first half, Quincy tightened up. The Warriors scored only one point the first 5:44 of the second half, missing their first four shots while committing six turnovers. Overall, Granite City shot 29.4 percent from the field (5 of 17) and 22.2 percent from 3-point range (2 of 9) in the second half.

“Coach said to play to our strengths,” Fairley said. “The first thing he said when he walked in (the locker room at halftime) was, ‘Do what you do.'”

And that is playing tenacious defense and attacking the basket. Often, the two go hand-in-hand.

Trailing by five with two minutes left in the third quarter, the Blue Devils went on an 8-2 run, highlighted by Fairley’s 13-foot pull-up jumper in transition and his nifty drive-and-dish to Davis for a layin with three seconds to play that gave Quincy its first lead at 35-34.

“They’ve been there before and they’ve found ways to get back in it,” Taylor said. “You talk about trust and belief, and these guys live it.”

It carried over to the fourth quarter.

The Blue Devils answered a 3-pointer by Garcia with another Davis layin as he scored 11 of his game-high 17 points in the second half. Then Dean split a pair of free throws with 6:29 to go to give Quincy the lead for good.

The separation came when the Blue Devils scored on five consecutive possessions — all five field goals came within 3 feet of the basket — to take a

48-40 lead with two minutes to play.

“We got the energy up and played like we know how,” Davis said. “We got the win.”