Course correction: Hot-shooting Blue Devils cap perfect weekend with title

Quincy HighÕs Ian Richardson, left, and Jack Rupert, right, attempt to block a shot attempt by Chicago LeoÕs Kevin Drumgoole at Blue Devil Gym during the 49th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2019. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane

By Matt Schuckman Herald-WhigPosted: Dec. 1, 2019 7:20 pm 

QUINCY — As soon he released his 3-point attempt, Lucas Reis had a dreadful thought. 

“I was like, ‘Dang, that might get stuck in the rim,'” he said. 

He actually misguided it worse than that. The shot from the left wing hit the backboard first and caromed at the perfect angle to fall through the rim, extending the Quincy High School boys basketball team’s second-quarter lead to 14 points against Chicago Leo in Saturday night’s finale of the 49th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament. 

All Reis could do as he headed back on defense was shrug his shoulders. 

“I was watching it, and when it went in, I was like, ‘There’s no way,'” the senior point guard said. 

On this night, with the chance at a perfect weekend, everything fell the Blue Devils’ way. 

Leo managed just four second-quarter points — the Lions scored on their first and last possessions of the quarter — and Quincy shot a blistering 59.5 percent from the field and 48 percent from 3-point range in a 66-45 victory at Blue Devil Gym. 

It is the Blue Devils’ 34th title all-time and ninth in the past 11 seasons. 

“It’s this atmosphere,” said Reis, who had nine points and six assists and was named to the all-tournament team. “You can’t ask for anything better.” 

It was a complete reversal of fortunes after the Blue Devils went winless in this tournament a year ago. 

“That was hard,” junior forward Brady Rupert said. “Everybody had doubt in us. We needed to come back strong and show people what we have.” 

That’s a hard-nosed attitude. 

Facing a Leo frontcourt featuring 6-foot-6 junior Tim Howard and 6-4 junior Kalil Lacking, Quincy played with no fear. The 6-1 Rupert scored the Blue Devils’ first three field goals, twice finishing at the rim and draining a 12-foot jumper after rolling off a screen in the high post. 

“Once I hit the first one, I was like, ‘I’ve got to make more,'” Rupert said. 

He never stopped. Rupert went 11 of 15 from the field with a game-high 25 points and made three consecutive 3-pointers in the fourth quarter. But it was his decision making that led to scoring opportunities as he consistently made the right choice whether to attack Howard and Lacking off the dribble or stop and attempt 12- to 15-foot jumpers. 

“I keep telling him that if he sets that ball screen (at the top of the key) and you roll and they give it to you, you have to stop and pop,” interim QHS coach Tom Lepper said. “The minute you start to dribble, the defense is going to hound you.” 

Early in the third quarter, Rupert did exactly what Lepper suggested on back-to-back possessions and smoothly made both shots. 

“He came to the sideline and I asked him, ‘Do you see what I’m saying now?'” Lepper said. “He had a big smile and said yeah.” 

Rupert’s confident start rubbed off on everyone else. 

Jeremiah Talton hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first quarter, buried four treys overall and finished with 18 points and six rebounds as he was named the tournament MVP. Adonte Crider, also an all-tournament selection, had 12 points as the starting five scored all the points. 

The bench contributed five assists, six rebounds, two blocks and energy defensively. The Lions went 2 of 12 from the field in the second quarter and never recovered. Howard, who averaged 18 points over the first two games, was held to six points, four of which came in the fourth quarter. 

Kevin Drumgoole led Leo with 10 points as the Lions shot just 37.7 percent from the field and 27.8 percent from 3-point range. 

“Effort,” Reis said of the reason behind the good defense. “Jeremiah is drawing charges. People are getting on the floor. If we win 50-50 balls and are giving that effort, we’re going to be fine all year. It’s the little things that will make us good.” 

The Blue Devils already are several steps ahead of where they were a year ago. 

“It’s a different team, different year and we have a whole different mindset,” Reis said. 

49th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament 

Quincy 66, Chicago Leo 45

Humphrey, Devils refuse to budge on defense

By Matt Schuckman Herald-WhigPosted: Nov. 30, 2019 1:00 am 

QUINCY — Drae Humphrey didn’t score a single point Friday night. He didn’t attempt a shot or get credited with an assist. If not for a rebound, he wouldn’t have been found in the boxscore. 

Yet, he played the most significant role in the Quincy High School boys basketball team’s success. 

Humphrey stepped into the starting lineup against Waukegan and took over as the point man on the Blue Devils’ 1-2-2 zone defense. The junior guard’s physical presence and ability to deny high post penetration stymied everything the Bulldogs wanted to do. 

Quincy limited Waukegan to five points in each of the first two quarters, built its advantage to as many as 31 points and improved to 2-0 with a 65-36 drubbing in the 49th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament at Blue Devil Gym. 

The Blue Devils will look for the championship and the weekend sweep against Chicago Leo at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The Lions were upset 61-60 by St. Charles (Mo.) Lutheran North as Tahj Patterson converted a three-point play with less than 20 seconds remaining in regulation. 

“They do have a physical presence inside,” QHS interim coach Tom Lepper said of Leo. “We have to find a way to keep them off the glass and muscle up with them a little bit. There’s always ways in that defense where you can adjust to what teams want to do and try to take that away.” 

Like changing the point man of the defense the way the Blue Devils did Friday. 

“The coaches always tell me you have to know your role,” Humphrey said. “I tend try to do that the best I can. I’m not the best scorer. I’m not the tallest on the floor, but I’m always going to hustle and do my best on the boards.” 

And in this case, Humphrey had to take up space and take away driving lanes. 

“On film, we noticed these guys weren’t the best shooters and they were taller and wanted to get in the paint,” Humphrey said. “So (interim coach Tom Lepper) told me to get down and get ready and just patient by letting them come to you.” 

When the Bulldogs did, they got knocked away. Waukegan turned the ball over on four of its first seven possessions, went 4 minutes, 51 seconds between field goals and watched Quincy go on an 11-0 by scoring nine points off turnovers. 

Things only got worse. The Bulldogs made just one field goal in the second quarter, missed their final 10 shots of the half and trailed 26-10 at halftime after shooting just 15.8 percent. 

“We’re not going outside the box my any means,” Lepper said. “We’re just trying to contain the ball. We don’t have overly quick guys, but we do a good job of containing the ball and keeping the ball out of the middle, which I thought really took them out of their game.” 

By Humphrey taking away the high post and the wing defenders challenging shooters, the Bulldogs didn’t have many scoring options. 

Kijuan Stricklin-Davis led Waukegan with 15 points, but 14 of those came in the second half. No one else scored more than four points and the Bulldogs didn’t make a single shot from the high post. 

“Drae has a really good basketball mind,” Lepper said. “He knows where everybody is on the floor, not only defensively, but he does a great job of that offensively also. He reads things. He knows if I’m not supposed to be here I’m going to get the heck out of here. 

“He plays within his realm, and more opportunities come to players who know that.” 

Jeremiah Talton knows his realm and it’s to score. The sophomore swingman found his rhythm doing that. 

Talton made three 3-pointers to open the second half, knocked down five overall and scored a game-high 23 points. He also grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds and drew two more charges. 

That was all after missing his first two shots. 

“I just think the next one’s going in,” Talton said. “You have to stay with that transition throughout.” 

No other Blue Devils scored in double figures, but none were needed as 12 of the 15 players who saw action scored. 

“I think we’ve been doing pretty well, but the best is yet to come,” Humphrey said. 

49th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament 

Quincy 65, Waukegan 36

Right move at right time makes Lepper’s debut successful

Quincy High School assistant coach Tom Lepper, who is filling in as the interim coach while Andy Douglas serves a six-game suspension, watches from the sideline during the Blue Devils’ 62-50 victory over St. Charles (Mo.) Lutheran North on Thursday night at Blue Devil Gym. | H-W Photo/Katelyn Metzger

By Matt Schuckman Herald-WhigPosted: Nov. 29, 2019 3:10 am Updated: Nov. 29, 2019 3:18 am

The Quincy High School boys basketball players generously estimated Tom Lepper’s pregame speech lasted about 30 seconds. 

By then, what else was there to say? 

“We were prepared and he knew it,” senior guard Lucas Reis said. 

Even so, the Blue Devils shared a mix of adrenalin and anxiousness with their interim leader prior to Thursday night’s season opener against St. Charles (Mo.) Lutheran North in the 49th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament. With head coach Andy Douglas serving a six-game suspension for his offseason guilty plea to driving under the influence of alcohol, Lepper was tasked with being the fill-in. 

That didn’t change much for the long-time assistant coach outside of being the first to speak and the one with the last word. 

So some trepidation is understandable. 

“You could tell he was a little nervous,” Reis said. “He just wanted to get there.” 

So why waste time on a pregame speech? 

Lepper saved what he had to say until halftime when the Blue Devils led just 28-24 and needed to make some adjustments. 

“I told them at halftime I was a little excited and I take partial blame for the way we played,” Lepper said. “I told them to go out and guard. Let’s go get ’em. I get bored when they pass it around, but then you have to go with what works.” 

Lutheran North didn’t handle the pressure early, allowing the Blue Devils to bolt to an 8-0 lead and failing to score until Isiah Wlliams’ putback with 4:40 to play in the first quarter. The Crusaders whittled away the entire deficit with three minutes remaining in the first half by scoring off dribble penetration. 

So Lepper and assistant coaches Bruce Bonness and Doug Bruner made a critical adjustment and pulled back on the aggressiveness. 

“I told them let’s just contain it,” Lepper said. “Let’s keep the ball in front of us and keep it from going in the middle and see what happens. We started getting some rebounds and it started working out for us.” 

The Blue Devils assumed it would. 

“When we tried to pressure, they figured out the middle was going to be wide open,” Reis said. “(Lepper) said to play back and kind of cluster everything up. I don’t think they were expecting it.” 

It changed the tone of the game enough to allow the Blue Devils to roll to a 62-50 victory and a 1-0 coaching record for the former all-state center who has been a part of the QHS coaching staff the past two decades. 

As different as Thursday night seemed in many ways — the 6-foot-9 Lepper casts a more imposing sideline figure than Douglas — the end result came down to knowing the game, the personnel and how to get your point across. 

It doesn’t take long to do that if you say the right things. 

Lepper needed only 30 seconds to remind the Blue Devils they were in this together.