Beyond the Boxscore: Blue Devils’ Smith confident in his shot

Jaeden Smith with the Defensive Player of the Week Award.

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Feb. 11, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Feb. 11, 2017 11:40 pm
 Jaeden Smith’s tenuous moments have passed.

The sophomore guard is playing like a seasoned veteran, and it’s benefitting the Quincy High School boys basketball team in a significant way.

Saturday night, Smith made three 3-pointers in a five-possession span of the second quarter, turning a three-point deficit into a three-point lead and helping the Blue Devils pick up a 57-48 victory at Blue Devil Gym. It is the Blue Devils’ 27th straight home victory and the third straight game Smith has scored in double digits as he finished with 19 points.

“My teammates always keep me going,” Smith said. “They’re always like, ‘Keep shooting’ when I’m in a slump. I was in a slump at the beginning of the season, but I’m feeling great now because all my teammates pick me up every game.”

Jacksonville made two of its first three 3-point attempts and bolted to an 8-2 lead, but Parker Bland buried a 14-footer along right baseline and Smith knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing to change the tide. Smith’s barrage in the second quarter gave Quincy all the momentum.

But Quincy coach Andy Douglas didn’t want the game to evolv into a 3-point shooting contest.

“That’s something we’re good at,” Douglas said. “But we’re great at defense.”

Smith had a hand in helping the Blue Devils get defensive. The Crimsons went 6 of 24 from the field in the second half and 3 of 16 from 3-point range as the Blue Devils pushed the lead to as many as 11 points in the third quarter.

After Jacksonville trimmed the lead to four, Smith buried another 3-pointer to hold the Crimsons at bay.

“He was great again tonight,” Douglas said. “Offensively, he was great for us. Defensively, he did a great job of running at guys. You’re seeing the confidence build game-by-game for a lot of guys, but it really sticks out with him.”

Critical juncture

A five-point possession midway through the second quarter played a major role in Quincy keeping the lead.

Off a missed running jumper by Bland, Jacksonville forward Brandon McCombs cleared the defensive rebound. However, Quincy’s Garrett Gadeke reached in and forced a jump ball call. McCombs, the 6-foot-7 senior who has signed to play at NCAA Division II Lewis University, was hit with a technical foul for questioning the call. Crimsons coach Cliff Cameron went onto the floor to argue the cal and was slapped with a technical foul as well.

Quincy guard Aaron Shoot made 3 of 4 free throws, and the Blue Devils finished the possession with Gadeke’s layin to take a 32-25 lead.

The Blue Devils’ lead never dipped below five points again.

Weekend sweep

Coming off Friday night’s hard-fought 41-38 victory over United Township that gave the Blue Devils a chance at a Western Big Six Conference championship, there was a legitimate concern they might not have the legs to play the style of defense they want.

That might have been the case for better than a quarter Saturday night, but Quincy refused to let fatigue bother it.

“These games are huge to build that toughness you’re going to need when we go into postseason play,” Douglas said. “We needed this for a lot of reasons. Regional seeds come out this week, and it gives us a chance to be up at the top. We’ll see where we fall, but we’ve done our job. We’ve continued to win at home and protect our house. It was a big weekend for us.”

At 18-4, the Blue Devils have a chance for one of the top four seeds in one of the two sub-sectionals of the Class 4A Ottawa Sectional. Belleville East and Granite City will be the regional hosts, with Edwardsville and East St. Louis expected to be the top seeds at those regionals.

The Illinois High School Association will release the seeds Thursday.

Gadeke, Blue Devils bury memory of early-season loss to Panthers

Quincy High’s Garrett Gadeke (42) battles for a rebound with United Township’s Izaya Sims during their game Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, at Blue Devil Gym. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson Phil Carlson1|

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Feb. 10, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Feb. 11, 2017 12:40 am

QUINCY — Not quite 48 hours after Garrett Gadeke missed the shot he couldn’t forget, a newspaper headline trumpeted his redemption.

That didn’t actually happen until Friday night.

Eight weeks after Gadeke’s last-second shot rolled off the rim and saddled the Quincy High School boys basketball team with a 45-43 loss at United Township, the senior forward was a central figure in the Blue Devils getting back in the Western Big Six Conference championship chase.

Gadeke scored a team-high 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds, including two defensive boards in the final minute of regulation that enable the Blue Devils to grab a 41-38 victory over the Panthers at Blue Devil Gym.

“After that first loss, and the fashion in which we lost it, I really hung my head on the bus ride home,” Gadeke said. “It’s a moment where you feel you let your teammates down, you let your coaches down, and in a sense, your community and your school. We want to bring home a Western Big Six title so badly, and the fact I had a part in taking a step back instead of a step forward, it really makes you think.

“To come out here tonight and play aggressive, play smart and play strong, it meant everything.”

Now, all the Blue Devils have to do is win their final two WB6 games to do no worse than tie for the title.

Quincy (17-4, 6-2 WB6) still trails United Township (22-5, 7-2 WB6) by a half-game, and the Panthers can wrap up their share of the title by beating Rock Island next week. But with victories over Galesburg and Moline, the Blue Devils would win their league-record 22nd championship.

“This was just another step toward our goal,” QHS sophomore guard Jirehl Brock said. “We have to keep moving forward.”

Gadeke knows just how important that is.

The loss in December at the Panther Den ended the Blue Devils’ seven-game winning streak. Although Quincy came back the next night to beat Quincy Notre Dame 68-50 as Gadeke had 15 points and 10 rebounds, he continued to play with a chip on his shoulder because of that one miss.

That won’t change. He has his redemption, but he wants a WB6 title just as badly as anyone else.

“It’s awesome to watch that kid grow and develop,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “He was a monster tonight. The biggest thing, though, was being tough enough to more forward from a game like he had earlier this season and not have it be in the back of his mind. That shows his maturity and leadership.”

Cut off at the pass: Brock’s steal keeps QHS in WB6 title chase

United Township’s Izaya Sims De’Ante Walker reacts after being fouled by Quincy High defender Jirehl Brock during their game Friday, Feb. 10, 2017, at Blue Devil Gym. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson Phil Carlson 1|

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Feb. 10, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Feb. 11, 2017 12:41 am

QUINCY — After the United Township boys basketball team burned its final timeout, Jirehl Brock pulled his jersey over his head in sheer disgust as he headed to the huddle.

Quincy High School coach Andy Douglas yanked it back down.

“I said, ‘Look, man, it’s not over,'” Douglas said. “I told him to get it back on the defensive end. He was frustrated and rightfully so, but he was able to clear his mind once he took the floor and concentrate on what he had to do.”

The sophomore guard missed the front end of a 1-and-1 situation with 23.6 seconds remaining in regulation Friday night and Quincy clinging to a 39-38 lead. His miss gave United Township a chance to set up a play for a potential game-winning basket that would wrap up the Western Big Six Conference championship.

Then he stole it all away.

Brock forced UT’s Tray Buchanan to make an ill-advised jump pass and snatched the ball, immediately handing it teammate Aaron Shoot before the Panthers could foul him again. Shoot was fouled with 4.4 seconds remaining and made both free throws to secure a 41-38 victory at Blue Devil Gym.

“I thought he was going to shoot it,” Brock said. “When he jumped up in the air, I thought he was going to shoot it, and it would have been almost uncontested. I’ve always been taught not to jump and make a pass.

“He got in a bind and couldn’t pass it anywhere. It just went straight to me.”

It moved the Blue Devils straight into title contention as well.

Quincy (17-4, 6-2 WB6) trails United Township (22-5, 7-2 WB6) by a half-game with two games still to play. The Blue Devils travel to Galesburg next Friday and close the regular season by playing host to Moline.

Win both, and the Blue Devils guarantee themselves a share of their league-record 22nd championship.

“The other teams are going to be coming for us,” said senior forward Garrett Gadeke, who led the Blue Devils with 15 points and seven rebounds. “Last year, Galesburg had a chance to win it outright and lost on the last weekend. We can’t allow that to happen. We have to finish the job.”

They did that Friday night with stout defense.

After Buchanan’s short jumper have the Panthers a 36-35 lead with 4:34 to go, UT committed three consecutive turnovers and managed just one field goal the rest of the game. Izaya Sims’ jumper from the block pushed the Panthers ahead 38-36 with 2:10 to go.

However, just 16 seconds later, Brock was left wide open on the left wing and knocked down a 3-pointer that gave the Blue Devils the lead for good.

“It’s a make-or-miss game,” UT coach Ryan Webber said. “Both teams competed hard. We got the lead and rolled the dice. We went triangle-and-two, and Brock made a shot.”

The Panthers worked nearly a minute off the clock before using a timeout to set up a play. The ball ended up with Buchanan, but he missed a jumper that Gadeke rebounded. Brock was fouled 10 seconds later, but his free throw was off the mark.

The Blue Devils weren’t going to let Brock dwell on it.

“I sat next to him in the huddle and told him to keep his head, keep his confidence and get it back on defense,” Gadeke said. “He makes his money on the defensive side of the ball. There is not a tougher point man on a zone in the Western Big Six than Jirehl. He played incredibly well down the stretch.”

Everyone expected Buchanan, the WB6’s leading scorer who had six of his game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, to get the ball. Douglas told Brock to not let him loose.

“We had to be glued to him,” Douglas said, noting Buchanan made three 3-pointers in the first half and four overall. “That was in the scouting report from the start, and we didn’t execute that as well as we needed to in the first half. We still have to be disciplined enough to stick to the shooter.

“So in that situation, I told them to stick to him. If anyone else steps up and makes a three, it’s on me. It’s not going to be him. Jirehl stuck with him and got him in an uncomfortable position.”

Now, Quincy is in the favorable position of controlling its own destiny.

“All we wanted to do was give ourselves a chance, and we did that,” Douglas said. “I don’t have to tell them anything. They were already saying, ‘Galesburg, Galesburg.’ We have a tough game in Galesburg on the road and then a Moline team that is playing like one of the best teams in the conference right now.

“It’s not going to be an easy feat, but at least we give ourselves a chance.”

Blue Devils make sure not to let loss linger

Hickamn’s Eli Davis attempts to block a shot attempt by Quincy High’s Aaron Shoot on Saturday, Jan. 2017. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane Michael Kipley Photographer

“We really put together four full quarters,” Shoot said.

That’s the best way to wash the memory clean.

“Friday night was an anomaly. It wasn’t the norm,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “We knew we had to move forward and move forward pretty quick. The effort was solid. The effort was really good.

“Our guys did a good job of communicating, which we had none of (Friday) night. Just all-around, our defense was electric tonight.”

Doin’ the Hustle: Brock sparks Blue Devils in fourth quarter

Quincy’s Jirehl Brock tries to swat the ball away from Batavia’s Eric Peterson on the defensive end. | H-W Photo/Michael Kipley

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Jan. 21, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Jan. 21, 2017 11:55 pm

QUINCY — Jirehl Brock didn’t get to see the floor much Saturday night because of foul trouble, but he made his minutes count in the fourth quarter.

The sophomore guard on the Quincy High School boys basketball team scored four points, grabbed an offensive rebound and had two steals in a 36-second span to help QHS turn a four-point lead into a 53-35 victory over Batavia at Blue Devil Gym. It’s Quincy’s 24th consecutive home victory.

“I wanted to be on the court as much as I could,” Brock said. “I knew I had a foul to give. If I was going to pick up the last foul, I was going to do it as hard as I can.”

Brock’s effort while playing with four fouls resembled that.

Batavia trimmed Quincy’s lead to 38-34 after senior guard Colin Cheaney split a pair of free throws with 4 minutes, 35 seconds remaining. Quincy sophomore guard Jaeden Smith followed by knocking down three free throws.

On the next possession, Smith missed a 3-pointer that Brock collected the rebound and made a putback with 3:36 remaining. After a Batavia turnover led to free throws by guard Aaron Shoot, Brock came up with a steal in the open floor that turned into a layup to push Quincy’s lead to 47-34. Batavia’s Eric Peterson lost possession of the ball while trying to bring the ball up the court seconds later, and Brock dove on the floor for the steal and Quincy coach Andy Douglas called a timeout with 3:01 to go.

“Jirehl, I thought, really stuck in and was mentally tough to play it out with four fouls,” Douglas said. “I though it was a game of heart tonight. We played a really physical game last night, and we had to turn around and play another one tonight.”

The Blue Devils (14-3) showed that in the fourth quarter.

Cheaney scored a layin with 6:18 to go to trim Quincy’s lead to 38-31, and it was the last field goal the Bulldogs (12-11) scored. Batavia went just 1 of 5 from the floor in the final eight minutes and committed five turnovers. Batavia’s final four points in the last 6:18 came from the free-throw line.

Quincy’s Parker Bland and Garrett Gadeke got into foul trouble along with Brock, but the fourth quarter allowed them to play freely.

“That last four minutes when we got them in, it was kind of, ‘Let’s go,'” Douglas said. “That was the time to turn it up defensively.”

That stifling defense allowed Quincy to score 19 points in the fourth quarter on 6-of-8 shooting from the field and 7 of 10 from the free-throw line.

“Our defense is really just to generate turnovers and turn it into offense,” said Shoot, who had 13 points, six assists and four steals. “Handling pressure was one of their weaknesses, so we knew we could have success with that.”

Bland, however, was hurt after he scored a layin off an alley-oop with 1:27 remaining. When Bland landed, he got his left leg caught in between the bleachers under the basket and a wheelchair. Bland said when he tried to get up to get back on defense, his leg was twisted.

He left the game, then later left the gym on crutches on his way to get X-rays.

“I heard some cracking,” said Bland, who finished with a game-high 24 points and grabbed six rebounds. “I don’t know if it was (blood) vessels or what, but we’re going to find out.”

Quincy forced Batavia to commit 24 turnovers, and the Blue Devils shot 59.4 percent from the field.

Been There, Done That: Experienced Blue Devils hold on at Moline

Quincy Garrett Gadeke (42) blocks Moline Jeff McInnis’ (32) shot during the Maroon’s loss to Quincy Friday, Jan. 20, 2017 at Warton Field House. Moline fell to Quincy,47-42. Meg McLaughlin

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Jan. 20, 2017 10:45 pm Updated: Jan. 21, 2017 12:44 am

MOLINE, Ill. — Experience makes quite a difference.

The Quincy High School boys basketball team is blessed with it. Moline will eventually gain it.

The disparity showed down the stretch on Friday night.

Quincy senior forward Garrett Gadeke made two free throws with 12.5 seconds remaining in regulation, and Moline’s youthful squad missed its final six 3-point attempts as the Blue Devils survived a trip to Wharton Field House with a 47-42 Western Big Six Conference victory.

“They’re a young group. We’re a veteran group,” Gadeke said. “We have a lot of players who have played a lot. We have seniors who step up in big leadership roles, and we have a good mix of young guys who stepped up and made plays.

“We don’t get nervous because we have veteran guys who can calm the young guys down and have them make good plays down the stretch.”

It would have been easy for the Blue Devils (13-3, 4-1 WB6) to crack.

Trailing by 10 points at the start of the fourth quarter, Moline knocked down three consecutive 3-pointers, flustered Quincy with full-court pressure and pulled within 39-35 with 4:34 to go by scoring on six straight possessions.

The Maroons (12-7, 2-3 WB6) eventually whittled the deficit to 43-41 with 1:33 to go when Deonte Billups took a defensive rebound coast-to-coast for a layup.

“We have kids who will never quit,” Moline coach Sean Taylor said. “They found a way to make it game. We just have to try to make a couple more plays and not put ourselves in this position where we get down 10 or 12.”

At that point, Quincy’s experience showed.

First, senior forward Parker Bland made it a two-possession game when he slipped past a defender and made a left-handed layup. Bland and Gadeke cleared the defensive glass on three straight possessions, and Gadeke calmly finished the Maroons with two clutch free throws.

That’s expected of an 82-percent free-throw shooter, even though he missed two from the charity stripe earlier in the fourth quarter.

“The two that I missed, the first one was like, ‘Yep, that’s in.’ And then it was long,” said Gadeke, who led the Blue Devils with 14 points and nine rebounds. “The second one I knew I wasn’t going to make it. I short-armed it. It didn’t faze me.

“You can tell right away whether it is going in or not. On both of those last two, it was like, ‘Over. Game over.'”

It might not have come to that if the Blue Devils hadn’t struggled offensively early.

The Maroons led for the first 3:50 of the game as the Blue Devils committed three turnovers on their first five possessions. Quincy didn’t score until Bland’s layin off a Jaeden Smith assist.

The second quarter had a similar start. Quincy missed its first three shots and watched Moline tie the game at 7 with 4:40 to go in the first half.

“We knew on the defensive side we were also stopping them from scoring,” said QHS sophomore guard Jirehl Brock, who had 10 points and three steals. “As long as we were stopping them, we know the ball will go down for us. We know we will get that rhythm and shots will start to fall.”

That eventually happened.

The Blue Devils went on a 12-0 run in the second quarter and took a 19-10 lead into halftime. They also scored on six of their final seven possessions of the third quarter to push a four-point lead back to a 10-point advantage.

It was too much for the Maroons to overcome. They just 30.4 percent from the field and 22.2 percent from 3-point range, missing their first nine attempts.

“We had some good shots, but Quincy’s defense is really long and really aggressive,” Taylor said. “Brock plays great at that point. He was the key for them.”

So was a simple mindset that never escaped the Blue Devils.

“Stay calm,” Gadeke said.

That’s experience showing.

Peace of Mind: Blue Devils focus on moment in overwhelming Silver Streaks

Quincy High’s Jaeden Smith, right, drives to the basket for a layup around Galesburg’s Jacob Ross in first-half action of their game Friday, Jan. 13, 2017, at Blue Devil Gym. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Jan. 13, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Jan. 13, 2017 11:00 pm

QUINCY — Aaron Shoot understood the fear the Quincy High School boys basketball team might not be at the top of its game following a two-week layoff.

“You can come out with a bunch of rust on you, and you can give up a bunch of easy looks on defense and not have any energy whatsoever,” Shoot said.

Or you can play with the kind of fervor the Blue Devils showed Friday night.

Quincy blitzed Galesburg by forcing two turnovers and scoring six points in the first 1 minute, 14 seconds and held the Silver Streaks to 1-of-12 shooting from the field in the first quarter. The tide and the tempo never changed as the Blue Devils rolled to a 55-26 Western Big Six Conference victory at Blue Devil Gym.

“We were on the opposite side of the spectrum,” said Shoot, the junior guard who scored the game’s first four points and finished with 12 points, six steals and four assists. “We came out intense. We came out hot. That set us up for the rest of the game with our energy and our intensity.”

It allowed the Blue Devils to forget about the looming threat of a union strike for a little while at least.

The Quincy Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Personnel plans to walk off the job Tuesday, which means no classes and no extra-curricular activities can take place. If an agreement is not reached by Thursday, Quincy must forfeit next Friday’s game at Moline.

The Blue Devils also are scheduled to play Batavia next Saturday at Blue Devil Gym, where they have won 23 straight games.

“It’s always in the back of our minds,” said QHS senior forward Parker Bland, who had 12 points and six rebounds. “We try not to talk about it too much. We focus on what’s in front of us.”

Quincy coach Andy Douglas stressed the need to be focused during a turbulent time.

“The message he gave us before the game is this is like our sanctuary,” Shoot said. “It doesn’t matter what’s going on outside. It doesn’t matter what’s going on at home. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in your personal life. When you step foot on this court, nothing else matters but playing Blue Devil basketball.”

The Blue Devils, who hadn’t played since going 2-2 at the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic, used the first quarter Friday night to remind each other what that means.

Galesburg missed its first 11 shots and didn’t score a field goal until T.J. Pendleton’s reverse layup with 48 seconds left in the quarter that ended a 20-2 Quincy run. The Silver Streaks trailed 22-6 after the Blue Devils’ Garrett Gadeke made a fadeaway jumper along the baseline in the final second of the frame.

The Blue Devils scored on eight of their first nine possessions and went 9 of 12 from the field in the first eight minutes.

“They played outstanding and got in a good rhythm,” Galesburg coach Mike Reynolds said. “Hopefully the adults in town can get everything taken care of so they can play next Friday, too.”

The Silver Streaks turned the ball over on their first two possessions of the game, their first three possessions of the second quarter and 18 times overall.

When Galesburg avoided Quincy’s pressure, it still struggled to score. The Silver Streaks made just 7 of 34 shots (20.6 percent) and 2 of 17 3-pointers (11.8 percent).

“We had to come out with the intensity we wanted to be here,” Quincy sophomore guard Jirehl Brock said. “Our defense builds our offense. When we get steals and get buckets in transition, it gets the crowd going. And it gets us going.”

The Blue Devils never let up. They shot 55.3 percent from the field (21 of 38) and didn’t allow the Silver Streaks to reach double figures in any quarter.

“Focus,” Douglas said. “They really were focused in.”

That nearly brought Douglas to tears.

“I got kind of emotional in the first half thinking of the potential strike and thinking of these guys,” Douglas said. “The one thing that every coach asks is, ‘Give us everything you’ve got, and we’ll give you everything we’ve got.’ They’ve done that for me every year that I’ve been here.

“But the focus they came out with tonight, especially with everything going on, was unparalleled. That makes you proud.”

Blue Devils misfire on opportunity to finish tourney strong

The Panthers Stephon Jarrett can not stop the Blue Devils Jirehl Brock after he reverses his shot at the 33rd Annual Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Basketball Classic at Collinsville High School December 30 , 2016. PAUL BAILLARGEON

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 30, 2016 7:00 pm

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — Finishing the 33rd annual Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic with a 2-2 record won’t necessarily ruin the Quincy High School boys basketball team’s holiday celebration.

However, the leadup to New Year’s Eve might be a little less festive.

“It’s pretty crappy,” junior point guard Aaron Shoot said after the Blue Devils suffered a 52-49 loss to Decatur Eisenhower in Friday’s fifth-placce game.

Making matters worse was the fact Quincy struggled as much as it has offensively this season.

The Blue Devils shot just 26.1 percent from the field in the second half, failed to make a field goal the game’s final four minutes and committed 19 turnovers overall, including two in succession with a minute remaining in regulation and trailing by a point.

“I don’t know if we overlooked them, but we definitely came in a little … I can’t quite find the word for it,” Shoot said. “We were just not engaged enough.”

Quincy (11-3) led by 30-26 at halftime, but the lead evaporated within two minutes as the Blue Devils turned the ball over on two of their first three possessions of the third quarter. They followed up by turning the ball over on three of the first possessions of the fourth quarter.

Still, the game was tied at 42.

Eisenhower (7-4) finally took control when Qualyn Young scored five consecutive points — he had a tip-in and a layin during that sequence — to build a 48-43 lead with 4:24 to play. The Panthers never trailed again.

“If we’re not on defensively, if we’re not focused in and disciplined enough to get stops, we’re going to let teams hang around,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “If you let teams hang around, this is what happens.

“While it stinks to walk out of here 2-2 and you miss an opportunity at it, I think we learn a lot from it.”

Namely, the Blue Devils have to stay engaged defensively to keep teams out of the lane.

The Panthers shot 54.5 percent from the field and parlayed 15 steals into 20 fast break points. Eisenhower scored 21 points off turnovers and finished with 36 points in the paint, outscoring the Blue Devils by eight in that category.

“The pressure definitely got to us,” said Shoot, who had seven points, five assists, three steals and four turnovers. “We had plenty of turnovers that we usually don’t have. When you play a game and have that many turnovers and you have the soft turnovers that we had, you’re not going to win many games against good teams.

“We definitely need to take care of the ball better.”

Never was that more obvious than in the final 75 seconds.

Trailing by a point with 1:15 to play, Quincy forced Eisenhower to travel 20 feet from the basket, but Shoot lost the ball out of bounds coming up the right sideline. After another turnover by the Panthers seconds later, the Blue Devils had to inbound the ball from the baseline.

With two defenders blanketing Shoot, Quincy’s Jirehl Brock tried to throw over the top to Jaeden Smith. However, his pass hit the backside of the backboard and gave possession back to Eisenhower.

Stefon Jarrett’s layin off a backdoor cut put the Panthers up by three.

“We had a couple plays there where it was like, ‘What are we thinking?'” Shoot said. “We got a little bit out of control. That comes backs on me as the point guard. I have to do a better job of slowing everyone down and getting everyone back under control.”

When shots aren’t falling from the perimeter — Quincy was 2 of 8 from 3-point range — the Blue Devils need to go to their strength inside. Yet, Parker Bland and Garrett Gadeke combined to shoot 3 of 11 from the field with 10 total points in the second half.

That was after combining to go 8 of 13 from the field with 20 points in the first half. Bland finished with 18 points and nine rebounds, while Gadeke had 12 points and six rebounds.

“That’s when pounding the ball inside really comes into play,” Shoot said. “We’ve been really good at that all year, but we kind of got away from that.”

Passing grade: Blue Devils finish first half of schedule strong

Quincy forward Garrett Gadeke drives around a Washington defender en route to the basket during their game Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2016, at Blue Devil Gym. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 22, 2016 6:45 am Updated: Dec. 22, 2016 6:53 am

QUINCY — Parker Bland called them wolverine claw marks.

The scratches on the back on his left arm and shoulder — along with a sore left knee and right hip — were the remnants of how the Washington boys basketball team tested Quincy High School’s physical toughness, mental resolve and trust in each other Wednesday night.

The Blue Devils had no trouble passing what is essentially a mid-term exam.

Quincy saw a 13-point lead whittled to five roughly two minutes into the fourth quarter, but Bland’s layup in transition calmed everyone’s nerves as the Blue Devils closed out a 52-40 victory at Blue Devil Gym with an 11-4 run.

“That’s when our mental toughness comes into play,” said Bland, who led Quincy with 18 points and six rebounds. “We have to know we’re still playing a game. There’s still time to play, so we have to put it all together.”

The Blue Devils have done that so far, finishing the first half of the schedule with back-to-back victories and posting a 9-1 pre-Christmas record. It allows them to savor the next six days before heading to the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic.

“Oh, we do get to enjoy it,” QHS senior forward Deven Smith said. “But we’re going to come back in here and we’re going to get after it and get ready for Collinsville. We know it’s important.”

Handling in-your-face pressure is just as important.

The Panthers (5-2) committed eight first-quarter turnovers, made just one field goal in the game’s first 9 minutes, 36 seconds and trailed 16-3 before point guard Devin Whitelow scored off a drive along the left baseline. Washington cut the deficit to eight points by halftime and continued chiseling away in the second half.

When Adrian Ware hit his third 3-pointer of the second half with 6:24 to play, the Panthers were within 41-36.

And at that point, the Blue Devils had gone nearly four minutes without a field goal.

“That team was really good defensively,” QHS junior point guard Aaron Shoot said. “I think everyone in the gym could see it. They were all over us the entire game, full-court pressure the entire game.”

Had Quincy let it, the pressure could have turned the tide.

Instead, the Blue Devils refused to let the Panthers force the issue when it mattered most.

After Washington forced a turnover, giving it an opportunity to make it a one-possession game, Ware missed a 3-pointer from deep on the right wing and Quincy’s Jaeden Smith — the shortest player on the floor at the time — grabbed the long rebound. He spun and started a fastbreak that ended with Bland’s momentum-killing layup.

“A huge sigh,” QHS coach Andy Douglas said. “It was a sigh of relief at that point.”

The Blue Devils had weathered the storm.

“Those were the exact words that came out of Coach’s mouth when he called the timeout,” said Shoot, who finished with 13 points, five steals and three assists. “We knew they were going to come out hot. We knew they were going to come out in our face. They made a little bit of a run, but we handled it well.”

Following Bland’s bucket, Shoot stripped Ware for one of Panthers’ 18 turnovers, and Bland converted a three-point play at the other end off a high post feed from Garrett Gadeke to push the advantage to double digits.

Still, it wasn’t as defining as Jaeden Smith’s rebound and outlet pass for the critical basket.

“It was a calming play for the crowd,” Bland said. “It kind of calmed us, too.”

Sunday Conversation with QHS’s Andy Douglas and QND’s Kevin Meyer

Quincy Notre Dame basketball coach Kevin Meyer and Quincy High School basketball coach Andy Douglas pose for a photo in the Herald-Whig studio on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane

 

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 17, 2016 12:01 am Updated: Dec. 17, 2016 11:51 pm

Andy Douglas and Kevin Meyer share similar backgrounds.

Both played on high school basketball teams that reached the super-sectional round of the state tournament series. Meyer helped Quincy Notre Dame get there in Class A in 1989, and Douglas helped Quincy High School get there in Class AA in 2000. Both returned to their alma maters to be the head coach, with Douglas in his third season at QHS and Meyer in his second at QND.

Along the way they forged a friendship beyond the court. Their respect for each other and each other’s programs is genuine. It’s because they think and act with the same intentions — doing what’s best for the student-athletes.

They sat down before Saturday night’s crosstown showdown to discuss their approach to coaching, their friendship and what this game means.

How important is this game to basketball in Quincy?

Douglas: It’s big time. We’re a few blocks away from each other, and both schools compete year in and year out. The tradition at both schools is heavy. For the basketball community here, it’s something that is positive. It’s great for our players. I know players who for years wanted to be in this game and for whatever reason couldn’t be a part of it. Now that it’s happening again, it’s something special.

Meyer: I’ll echo that. It’s about the kids. They play at Johnson Park. They go out to QU, wherever they are playing games. They play with each other. They play against each other. This is a great chance for people to watch them on a bunch of different outlets and have some fun with it. At least that’s the way we are approaching it, to have some fun with it. It’s not to go out and trash each other or anything like that, because our schools have good relationships. It’s a fun environment. I enjoyed it last year, and we got our butts kicked. The support has to come from the community that they want to see it and be a part of it. It’s enjoyable. It’s a fun part of things. We keep coming back to that word, but it’s fun.

Douglas: The players want to play in big-time atmospheres and exciting atmospheres. You go to Springfield and Oswego and places like that where basketball is just not that big of a thing. People don’t show up in big numbers to watch it. Here, whether it’s their gym or our gym, they consistently do. With this game, it gives them a great opportunity. I remember coming out for the Western Big Six Conference championship game against Rock Island and going “Holy crap.” People were standing on the stairs. That was big time. That was a wow moment for all of us. This game can be like that. This game is going to have a better atmosphere than the state tournament has. That’s saying something. When you talk about all the fans who have been around each program for a while and some who have been around both programs for a while and the product that’s going to be on the floor, this has the potential to be one of the better experiences basketball-wise either group could have.

Are you jealous you didn’t get to play in a game like this?

Meyer: There’s some jealousy with it. It would have been fun. We each have people from the other team we know. In my case, (Eric) Stratman and (Dan) Sparrow talked about that last year, saying, “Oh, that wouldn’t have been a challenge,” and stuff like that. We sit here and talk about how (QND coach Bob) Kies and (QHS coach Jerry) Leggett would have handled it. How would Scott (Douglas) and Loren (Wallace) handled it? You didn’t get to experience that. From a player standpoint, how great would it have been to go out and play in Blue Devil Gym? We’ve been doing that since we were little kids. I remember in 1981 lining up at Kelly’s for the parade and stuff. At that point, I still felt like I wanted to be a Raider, but you’re going, “This is cool. This is Quincy basketball.” Maybe you got to play a JV game in there, and my senior year we played the regional there. That part of it is incredible. I am jealous of that.

Douglas: As a player, you want to be a part of it. It never was an option, so we never thought about it. It came up in the summertime when we played at Johnson Park and had pickup games, but we knew it wasn’t going happen during the season. Now that it is, I think it’s pretty cool. Selfishly, as a player, you want to be a part of it because now you have something to back up all the trash talk with Brian McNeil when he’s saying, “Oh, we were better than you guys.” As a competitor, you want to be a part of these big games.

Meyer: You always talk about wanting to play meaningful games. That’s a great way to describe this game. It doesn’t have any postseason repercussions. It isn’t our last game of the year, but boy, it’s a great one for all of us to learn from. Also, there’s the bragging rights part of it. That motivates the kids a little bit. There’s also the atmosphere. Playing in front of a big crowd, are you going to go out there and pee your pants? Or are you going to say this is a man’s game? I thought last year we had both moments. We got a lot out of it last year, and it really was meaningful.

What do your teams gain from this game?

Meyer: It’s a bigger game than what we play in our Christmas tournaments. It has a championship game feel because of the crowd, because of the TV aspect, because of what’s on the line. Quincy is on the line. That’s kind of a cool statement and kind of a cool idea. One of the fun things for us is there is mutual respect. That’s earned. It’s not given. Last year’s game was a good one. I talked about seeing Parker (Bland) and Jacob (Mayfield) go at it. At the end of the night when they shake hands, there’s respect. It’s both ways. That’s kind of a cool thing.

Douglas: Players get out of it how to play through pressure situations, how to play in a huge electric atmosphere, which they are going to see in postseason play and see in championship games of Christmas tournaments. They are going to see that in the second half of the season in all of our Western Big Six games. Every game that we have I try to be as consistent as possible and treat them all exactly the same. Every game, we go in with the mindset we need to improve and take steps in the right direction. This is no different than any of those other games.

The teams have a combined 13-1 record this year. Is there more anticipation for the game this year?

Douglas: I could care less what our record is. Honest to God, I told someone the other day the wrong record. I don’t care what we are, where we are record-wise. I care more about getting teams prepared to succeed and prepared to take steps in the right direction. That’s been my goal since I’ve been in the program. You get better or worse but you never stay the same. That’s our stamp on the program. We treat it that way in practice and in games. As far as records go, that’s more of a thing for fans. From my standpoint, we need to improve, and we’re going up against a tough QND team. We know it’s going to be a close game where they give everything and our guys give everything.

Meyer: It’s what you’re getting out of this game, not going into it undefeated and stuff like that. It’s the challenge part of it we look at. When it comes to our record, it matters at the end of the season I guess. That’s more of a fan side of it. It creates the hype. Fans are saying, “Oh, both teams are good.” That’s what we’re expecting and what we want. From a coaching standpoint, we’re trying to be better than we were last year, better than we were yesterday. On Sunday, the sun’s going to come up. Quincy is not burning to the ground. After that, they’ll get ready to play on Wednesday night and we’ll get ready for the State Farm Holiday Classic. Win or lose, after Saturday night, I’ll be a Blue Devil fan again and hopefully he’s a Raider fan. Saturday night, that’s probably not the case.

How much do you pay attention to each other’s teams?

Meyer: I follow him a lot. For one, we’ve done a lot of things together recently coaching wise. That’s what has been fun for me, being the coach for Notre Dame, is getting to know Andy really well and doing a lot of things to interact and see how he runs his program. What can I steal from him? What can we do to kind of emulate them? At the same time, I look at his kids and I know he has good kids. That means a lot because I’m hoping people say the same thing about us. It’s not always the case. We all have knuckleheads. But I follow them more than I ever have, partly because I’ve gotten to know him as a person and I know what he’s trying to do inside that locker room.

Douglas: I have a lot of respect for him. The situation that he took over is not something a lot of coaches would be jumping up and down about. He looked at it as a challenge. I’ve always said I respect how he handled it and how he’s running his program. They are going to have a lot of success down the line because of the type of person that he is and the coach that he is. I get the chance to watch his teams more on game film, and I get to watch how his kids play, the movement that they have. Good coaches are thieves. They steal ideas from everybody. We can say as high school coaches that we’re stealing from each other, and we’re stealing from the college coaches that we have in town as well. I have a lot of respect for Coach Meyer, and I have a lot of respect for his kids. We are very fortunate to be able to coach the kids that we get to coach going through our programs. That are not a lot of programs out there that can say that and be consistent about it.

Should this game continued to be played?

Douglas: I think so. People have talked about not doing it every single year and breaking it up into two-year increments, but I think we should play every year. It’s good for both programs. It’s good for the community. It gets people involved. Hopefully it gets people off their coaches and into the stands to watch at both places. The kids deserve it. They deserve to be a part of it. They deserve for people to come out and support them and be there in the stands to watch. When they look up in the stands and see a place that’s packed with support from both sides, it’s something they are going to remember the rest of their lives.

Meyer: The biggest thing you said is, “This is for the kids.” We could play in an empty gym and have refs — good refs — and have fun with it. It’s for the kids. It’s for our players. Why do we need to travel six hours when we can travel six minutes and play a high quality team? It just makes sense. I will always say that. It makes sense.