Blue Devils keep WB6 title chances alive with win at East Moline

By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writer

EAST MOLINE, Ill. — Sean Taylor tried to be as honest with the Quincy High School boys basketball team as he could.

With three losses, the Blue Devils would have a chance at capturing at least a share of the Western Big Six Conference championship.

With four losses, they wouldn’t.

How true that is after Friday night.

Quincy began the second half of the WB6 season by exploiting injury-riddled East Moline defensively, limiting the conference co-leaders to 0-for-20 shooting from 3-point range as the Blue Devils posted a 55-37 victory at the Panther Den.

Meanwhile, Rock Island Alleman upset the league’s other co-leader, beating Rock Island 67-63. Couple that with Moline’s 56-52 victory over Galesburg, and there is a three-way tie for first place at 4-2 with four conference games remaining. Quincy and Alleman lurk just a game behind at 3-3.

“We just have to keep pushing,” Quincy senior forward DeAngelo Dean said. “We have to stick together and do the little things that add up to a victory.”

Mainly, the Blue Devils (12-6, 3-3) have to keep winning.

“I didn’t want to put more pressure on them, but I wanted them to understand what’s real,” said Taylor, who has led Quincy to three WB6 titles in his first eight seasons as the head coach. “I think we’re playing better, and we’re going to give ourselves an opportunity to win every night.”

A momentum-turning shot and a buckle-down attitude did that Friday night.

Despite starting the game 1 of 9 from the field, the Blue Devils trailed only 13-9 after scoring the final five points of the first quarter, including junior guard Martin Kvitle’s buzzer-beating 3-pointer that he shot from the volleyball spike line painted on the court.

“I thought we got outplayed the first quarter,” Taylor said. “To only be down four was big for us.”

Then the Blue Devils took off. They scored the first seven points of the second quarter and pulled ahead 22-18 by halftime as they went 6 of 8 from the field in the second quarter.

“We took advantage of the momentum,” Taylor.

East Moline (12-8) couldn’t stem the tide.

Already without one starter, as senior guard D.J. McDowell was in a street clothes for academic reasons, the Panthers saw their leading scorer leave the floor midway through the second quarter. Tayvian Johnson, a 6-foot-5 senior forward, rolled his right ankle when landing awkwardly after trying to grab a defensive rebound.

He was helped off the floor, and when he returned to the bench after halftime, Johnson was on crutches.

“I feel sorry for the guy,” said Dean, who finished with 19 points and 13 rebounds. “I wanted to go against him. He’s a good player, and I like going up against good guys. But you have to take advantage of it and step up.”

More importantly, you have to attack.

“We were like, ‘Let’s just go at them harder,'” junior guard Cole Abbey said.

Making matters worse for the Panthers was senior guard Damon Overton landed hard on his back in the final minute of the first half and hobbled off the floor as well. Overton played the rest of the game, finishing with a game-high 24 points, but he was noticeably slower and favoring his lower back in the second half.

Without Overton’s ability to knife to the basket the way he did in the first half, East Moline was forced to settle for outside jumpers.

Those didn’t fall. The Panthers finished 12 of 42 from the field, going 6 of 32 the final three quarters.

“We just dug in and guarded harder than we ever guarded before,” Abbey said.

The Blue Devils also dominated the paint, outrebounding the Panthers 40-23 and grabbing 14 offensive boards. Abbey had three in the second half, scoring six second-chance points as he finished with 16 points off the bench.

“We had to rebound,” Dean said. “That was the main thing. We had to be aggressive and rebound.”

The Blue Devils did in a major way, creating an intriguing chase for the championship.

Angry Blue Devils dispatch Hinsdale South

By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writer

Kirk Kvitle may not know he gets under his son’s skin.

Now that he does, he may not want to stop.

Inspired by one of his dad’s pre-game pep talks, Martin Kvitle helped the Quincy High School boys basketball team get off to a more enthusiastic and productive start Saturday night as the Blue Devils turned a nine-point halftime lead into a 48-41 victory over Hinsdale South.

“He always talks to me and it makes me mad and motivates me too,” said Kvitle, the junior guard who scored seven of his game-high 20 points in the second half. “Every time, it gets me.”

This time, though, Kvitle shared the fatherly advice.

“He said Michael Jordan would develop extreme hates for somebody else,” Kvitle said. “That’s what I was telling (DeAngelo Dean) tonight. Act like one of these guys was coming into our house and threatening someone. I told him, ‘You have a sister. You know how mad you would get. Get it.'”

Defensively, the Blue Devils (11-6) played angry.

Quincy limited Hinsdale South’s top two scorers — 6-foot-8 senior forward Brock Benson and 5-11 senior guard Phil George — to a combined 18 points and forced them to go 6 of 25 from the field. The high-scoring duo had averaged 44 points over the previous six games with both setting career scoring highs during that stretch.

“I thought we guarded their best two players as well as we could have,” Quincy coach Sean Taylor said.

It helped his team got mad.

“You could tell by the look on everybody’s face we were ready to play,” said Kvitle, who went 10 of 12 from the free-throw line and finished with 20 points and four assists. “It worked.”

It changed the trend of sluggish starts.

Although the Hornets (9-8) scored the game’s first four points, the Blue Devils answered with Kvitle scoring off a backdoor alley-oop and Mason Fairley following with a 3-pointer from the right wing for a 5-4 advantage. Quincy never trailed again.

Trailing by five points at the end of the first quarter, Hinsdale South cut the lead to 18-16 on George’s runner with 4 minutes, 38 seconds remaining in the first half. However, Quincy scored on seven of its final eight possessions of the half and led 30-21 at the break.

It is only the third time in the last nine games the Blue Devils have owned a halftime lead. The Hornets never got closer than five points in the second half.

“With the lead, you don’t want to be super, super aggressive,” Kvitle said. “We couldn’t let them maintain the tempo they wanted. We had to still come out and compete and make them feel like they had to rush shots.”

The Hornets did just that. Hinsdale South went 7 of 26 from the field (26.9 percent) in the second half as George went 1 of 10. He finished 3 of 19 from the field and missed all seven 3-point attempts, finishing with just 10 points.

Meanwhile, the Blue Devils had three players in double figures as Fairley scored 11 points and Dean finished with 10.

It was a nice way to rebound for Kvitle and Fairley, who combined for just 12 points on 3-of-12 shooting from the field and 2-of-9 shooting from 3-point range in Friday’s loss at Rock Island.

“Martin is becoming really comfortable running point,” Taylor said. “And Mason is playing with a renewed sense of confidence. He has a bounce in his step. He is just playing with a ton more confidence.”

Devils slowed to a crawl in loss at Rocky

0121126063743_largeBy 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.”

QHS boys finish off upset of Peoria Central

0115126062021_largeBy MATT SCHUCKMANHerald-Whig Sports Writer

During Saturday morning’s shootaround, Quincy High School boys basketball coach Sean Taylor asked the Blue Devils to do one thing against state-ranked Peoria Central.

“He said, ‘You just have to compete and compete and compete,'” junior guard Mason Fairley said.

The Blue Devils did that until the very last second.

Quincy scored on four of its final five possessions, closing the game on a 9-3 run that allowed the Blue Devils to upset the Lions 70-64 at Blue Devil Gym and sweep a pair of weekend games for the first time since the first weekend of December. It is also Quincy’s first victory over a state-ranked foe — the Lions are No. 3 in Class 3A — since upsetting Lincoln in the quarterfinals of the Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic in 2010.

“It’s a step over the hill for us,” senior forward Mike Davis said. “When we all come together, there’s no telling what we can do.”

Or how high the Blue Devils (10-5) can go.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Davis, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. “We should be No. 3 now.”

Davis said that tongue-in-cheek and with a chuckle, but he and the rest of the Blue Devils believe their effort is telling of what they can accomplish.

Quincy fell into a 7-0 hole in the game’s first 80 seconds and trailed by as many as eight points in the first quarter. However, Fairley’s layup off a DeAngelo Dean assist and Dean’s pair of free throws in the final 29.9 seconds cut the deficit to four.

“It’s what we expected,” Fairley said. “They try to get up big and win the game in the first five minutes. We just had to hang in there and keep chipping away, keep fighting and keep digging.”

That’s sort of become this team’s mantra.

“You just got to keep trying,” Davis said. “Never give up.”

Or back down.

After a charging call on Quincy’s first possession of the second quarter, the Blue Devils scored on nine of their next 10 possessions and went to halftime tied at 37.

“At halftime, it’s anybody’s game and we were like, ‘We have to win this thing,'” said Fairley, who made three 3-pointers and scored 17 points. “We knew we had the advantage and they were starting to lose their cool. We had to come out and we had to put it to them.”

The Blue Devils did so with defense.

Peoria Central forward Trey Kellum, the team’s leading scorer at nearly 15 points per game, scored 15 in the first half but made just one field goal in the second half and finished with 19 points. Without his inside presence, the Lions were forced to take perimeter jumpers, which is exactly what the Blue Devils hope for.

Peoria Central shot 42.1 percent overall, but the Lions were just 3 of 8 from 3-point range in the second half.

“And then, again, for being outsized, outstrengthed and outmuscled, we competed on the glass,” Taylor said.

The Lions owned a 33-32 edge on the boards, but the Blue Devils limited them to just two offensive boards in the fourth quarter.

Meanwhile, Quincy had three offensive boards in the fourth quarter, including a pivotal tip-in by junior reserve forward Jason Salrin early in the fourth quarter that put the Blue Devils ahead 54-52.

“We’ve been getting on Jason all year to attack the glass,” Taylor said. “He’s 6-7 and pretty athletic, so go and get tips and he got a big one tonight.”

It stayed a one possession game until the Blue Devils made five of six free throws after the Lions’ Josh Augusta drew a technical foul with three minutes to play. A one-point deficit turned into a four-point edge, although back-to-back baskets by Aldonis Foote tied the game with two minutes to go.

That’s where smart play won the game.

Kvitle, who had 20 points and five assists, scored off an alley-oop from Dean with 1:51 to go to give the Blue Devils the lead for good, and they made 7 of 8 free throws to close it out.

“Last year, they whooped us,” Davis said. “We were about to fight and everything. We just said, ‘We’ll get them next year.’ We sure did.”