Kvitle’s shot crumbles Rocks as Blue Devils share WB6 title

0228121012553_largeBy MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writer

Before taking the floor for the final possession Friday night, Quincy High School boys basketball coach Sean Taylor had one thing to say to junior guard Martin Kvitle.

“Coach was like, ‘Martin, finish it off,'” Kvitle said.

He knew exactly how.

Kvitle buried a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds remaining to lift Quincy to a 51-48 victory over Rock Island at Blue Devil Gym, giving the Blue Devils a share of the Western Big Six Conference championship and running their regular season-ending winning streak to nine straight games.

“It makes it even more special that it was against Rocky,” Kvitle said. “We all hate Rocky.”

By winning its league-record 20th title, Quincy denied Rock Island the chance to win back-to-back outright WB6 championships. The two teams tied for first place at 7-3, marking the first time in league history the conference champion lost as many as three times.

In Quincy’s case, those three losses are a distant memory. The Blue Devils (19-6) won their final five WB6 games to erase the two-game deficit they faced after losing at Rock Island on Jan. 20.

“When it comes down to it, they were tough and it was a battle,” Kvitle said. “They hate us. We hate them. We got the last punch it looks like that knocked them out.”

That was only after Rock Island (15-11) delivered a couple punches of its own.

A pair of Mason Fairley free throws with 43.1 seconds remaining gave Quincy a 48-44 lead, but Rock Island made it a one-possession game on Denzel McCauley’s tip-in with 28 seconds to go. The Blue Devils struggled to get the ball inbounded, and Rocky’s C.J. Carr swiped the inbounds pass.

After a Rock Island timeout, the Rocks inbounded the ball to Brian Richardson on the right block. He spun around a defender and made a point-blank layin to tie the game with 15 seconds remaining.

“A few balls didn’t bounce our way,” Quincy guard Mason Fairley said. “But it’s amazing that a team can stick together like that and get through it and take care of business.”

After Richardson’s basket, Quincy hurried the ball into the frontcourt and took a timeout with 10.4 seconds remaining. On the ensuing play, the Blue Devils got the ball to Fairley in the corner and he tried to drive the baseline until being cut off by McCauley.

It forced Quincy to use its last timeout with 5.1 seconds remaining.

The Blue Devils didn’t need another one.

Fairley inbounded the ball to Kvitle coming off a screen by Dean, and Kvitle briefly looked to the post for Dean turning around. Without an open look inside, Kvitle didn’t hesitate and buried his fifth 3-pointer of the game.

“If (DeAngelo) was wide open, I was going to pass to him,” Kvitle said. “He’s got a better chance of making it, and if he gets fouled, he’s so good. But he wasn’t open, So I was saying, ‘You know what, just let it fly.'”

That was after he had missed four field goals earlier in the fourth quarter.

“I couldn’t find it,” Kvitle said. “I had to think one of them was going to fall.”

All of his threes did. Kvitle scored a career-high 25 points, going 5 for 5 from 3-point range and adding four assists.

“Fantastic,” Fairley said of Kvitle’s effort. “He stepped up tonight and took the load on himself. He kind of put the team on his back. Every game that you win, you have to have somebody able to do that.”

With so much attention being paid to Dean, who is Quincy’s leading scorer at more than 18 points per game, the Blue Devils had to have production elsewhere.

Dean finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, while Fairley had eight points and Mike Davis added six, including making two critical transition baskets early in the fourth quarter. One of those came off a Harrison Elbe steal as Quincy’s defensive stopper helped force 19 Rocky turnovers.

“They should all get just as much praise as I do,” Kvitle said. “Everybody played a role.”

Trae Babers came off the bench to lead Rocky with 12 points and Richardson had 10, while the Rocks’ top two scorers — Marquel Beasley and McCauley — were limited to eight and six points, respectively.

Still, it took every possession for Quincy to find a way to win.

“We battled to the end and we never gave up when we were down,” Dean said. “That’s how you do it.”

Beating an archrival made it just a little sweeter, too.

“To beat a team like this in an environment like this on a shot like that is a great way to end the regular season,” QHS coach Sean Taylor said. “A great way.”

Plan B gives Quincy shot at WB6 title

0218125053250_largeBy MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writer

Plan A wasn’t working, so Quincy High School boys basketball coach Sean Taylor went to Plan B.

That’s better known as Mike Davis.

Determined to slow Rock Island Alleman gunner Tyler Yeocum with a double team, Taylor chose to have Davis, a 6-foot-3 senior forward, run at Yeocum instead of bringing one of the guards from the wing to help.

When he made that move at the start of the second quarter, Quincy’s Western Big Six Conference title push went into high gear. The Blue Devils limited Yeocum to four points — all from the free-throw line — in the second and third quarters combined and came away with a 67-54 victory Friday night at Blue Devil Gym.

“It made somebody else beat us,” Quincy guard Martin Kvitle said.

No one else could. In fact, no one has since Rock Island did a month ago.

Because of that, the Blue Devils (18-6, 6-3 WB6) will face the Rocks (14-10, 7-2) at home next Friday night with a chance to share the WB6 title. The Rocks guaranteed themselves a share of their third straight crown Friday night by beating Moline 80-63.

So the two winningest programs in WB6 history will go head-to-head with the Blue Devils hoping to win their league-record 20th title.

“I don’t plan on losing on senior night and I don’t plan on losing at home,” Quincy forward DeAngelo Dean said. “I especially don’t plan on giving up the title at home.”

The Blue Devils used that sort of determination to turn the tide Friday night.

Yeocum, who averages 23 points per game and was coming off a 38-point performance last week against East Moline, scored 10 points in the first quarter and had two assists as teammate John Barrett knocked down a pair of 3-pointers. That concerned Taylor.

So after Yeocum hit a 3-pointer at the first-quarter buzzer to tie the game at 18, Taylor made an adjustment and turned Davis loose.

“Mike is really good at corralling people,” Taylor said.

He reined in Yeocum.

After making his first three field-goal attempts, Yeocum connected on just one of his next 10 shots. Following that buzzer beater, the senior guard didn’t convert again until burying a 3-pointer from about 25 feet with 1 minute, 40 seconds left in regulation.

Quincy led by 14 points when he did that.

“I thought we did a great job of making Yeocum give the ball up,” Taylor said. “Harrison (Elbe) and Mason (Fairley) did a great job when he gave it up of making it hard to get it back.”

When Yeocum didn’t get it back, Alleman (16-9, 5-4) tended to rush things. The Pioneers shot 34 percent from the field (16 of 47), but during the middle two quarters and the first six minutes of the fourth quarter, Alleman shot just 23.1 percent (6 of 26).

“A few baskets here or there could have kept it in striking distance,” Alleman coach Pat Rangel said. “Unfortunately, we didn’t hit a few shots and had a couple of bad possessions. Against a team like Quincy, you can’t afford to do that.”

Davis played a pivotal role in forcing Alleman into many of those mistakes.

“He has so much energy,” Dean said. “I don’t how he does it. He has so much energy.”

Dean wasn’t lacking for energy either.

After making just two of his first six shots, Dean found his rhythm in the second quarter. He connected on five straight shots to push Quincy to a 30-26 halftime lead and finished by hitting 10 of his final 11 shots, scoring 27 points with nine rebounds and three blocked shots.

His back-to-back baskets in the final 44 seconds of the third quarter helped keep Alleman at bay after the Pioneers closed within three points with 1:42 to go in the quarter.

“We had to score in spurts and keep up with their rallies,” Kvitle said. “Every time they scored, we answered.”

Kvitle added 19 points, hitting 5 of 6 free throws in the fourth quarter, and Davis scored 12 points.

“I think we’re a different team than when we played Rocky the first time,” Kvitle said. “Look at tonight, we had balanced scoring.”

It’s been the case in the four-game conference winning streak that has put Quincy in this position.

“If a group deserves to play for a conference title, it’s these guys,” Taylor said. “We have an opportunity. Now, we have to take advantage of it.”

Elbe’s intensity carries over to another QHS victory

Herald-Whig Sports Writer

JACKSONVILLE, Ill. — Harrison Elbe’s numbers won’t catch your eye.

No points. No field-goal attempts. No free throws, either.

Yet, what the junior guard did in the Quincy High School boys basketball team’s 48-36 victory over Jacksonville Saturday night at the Jacksonville Bowl shouldn’t be overlooked.

Elbe spearheaded a defensive effort that limited an opponent to less than 40 points for the second straight night and fourth time this season as the Crimsons shot 27.1 percent from the field and 16.7 percent from 3-point range.

“If you don’t think he did anything, then you don’t appreciate basketball,” said Quincy coach Sean Taylor, whose team has won seven straight games and is 9-1 in 2012. “He’s a bulldog. He’s not going to get outworked. He’s a big difference maker for us.”

It’s because he understands his role.

“That’s what I do best, and that’s what I like to do,” Elbe, a junior guard, said of playing defense. “I think one guy’s intensity on defense affects the other four guys’ intensity on defense. What I do and what other people do on the defensive side of the floor affects what we do on both ends of the floor the entire game.”

This time, it was taking the Crimsons completely out of their rhythm in the second half.

Tied at 21 after a physical first 16 minutes, Quincy (17-6) held Jacksonville scoreless the first 4 minutes, 55 seconds of the third quarter. In fact, Blake Hance’s offensive rebound and basket was the Crimsons’ only production until the final minute of the quarter.

Jacksonville scored just four points and went 2 of 12 from the field in falling behind 32-25.

“We only gave up 21 points in the first half, and you can’t complain too much about that,” Quincy guard Mason Fairley said. “But we knew we could play more physical. There were three or four 50-50 balls they came up with in the first half and got easy baskets.

“That didn’t happen in the second half. We made a few more balls bounce our way.”

That was true in the fourth quarter when the Blue Devils slammed the door.

The Crimsons (12-15) crawled within 35-29 before going scoreless for a 4:45 span in which they turned the ball over on four consecutive possessions and missed two outside jumpers, winding up in an 11-point hole.

“We knew their primary scorers were in the post and we tried to force them to score over the top,” Fairley said. “It worked well for us.”

It helped that the Blue Devils found some offensive rhythm.

Quincy trailed 21-14 with 2:30 to play in the first half before rattling off seven straight points before halftime. The Blue Devils then opened the third quarter on another 7-0 run the Crimsons couldn’t recovered from.

Jacksonville went 1 of 13 from 3-point range in the second half, and despite grabbing 15 offensive rebounds overall, Jacksonville managed just nine second-chance points.

“Coach said to keep it close in the first half, and in the second half, we’ll be able to make adjustments and exploit their weaknesses,” said Fairley, who scored nine of his 11 points in the second half. “That’s exactly what we tried to do.”

One of those adjustments was continuing to establish DeAngelo Dean on the block. Dean went 1 for 6 from the field in the second quarter, but he scored eight of his game-high 15 points in the third quarter when Quincy got some separation.

He also grabbed 11 rebounds, blocked four shots and had two assists and two steals.

“The way we finished the first half just gave us confidence,” Taylor said. “And our defense was really good.”

That’s because the intensity never wanted.

“We have to put in the effort and we have to play well,” said Elbe, who had three steals and two assists. “You can’t just play with effort alone. It’s going to get you somewhere but it’s not going to win you games against good teams by itself. We had the effort and we played well, too.”

Blue Devils keep pace in WB6 race with win at Moline

0211125051559_largeBy MARC NESSELER
Special to the Herald-Whig

MOLINE, Ill. – The Quincy High School boys basketball team feels right at home on the road in the Western Big Six Conference.

Now all the Blue Devils have to do is feel at home at home.

QHS completed the road portion of the conference schedule with a 4-1 record, capping it with a 44-37 victory over Moline on Friday night at Wharton Field House.

“Yes, all we have are two home games left,” Quincy coach Sean Taylor said of the title chase. “But remember, we’re 1-2 at home.”

The Blue Devils close out the WB6 by hosting Rock Island Alleman, with which it shares second place at 5-3, and conference leader Rock Island (6-2). If QHS wins both remaining WB6 games, it will clinch at least a share of the conference title.

“To go 4-1 on the road in a great league, that tells you something about our guys,” said Taylor, whose team improved to 16-6 overall. “We just gave ourselves a chance next Friday.”

A loss would have put Quincy two games back with two games to play. That’s now where Moline finds itself, at 4-4 in the WB6 and 21-5 overall.

Despite the gaudy record, the Maroons were sure to be without leading scorer Anthony Lindauer, out for the fifth of a five-game suspension, and were questionable about having No. 2 scorer Timmy Wages, who missed practice and was on crutches all week with a knee injury. He was cleared to play Friday morning.

Wages finished with team-highs of 14 points, four rebounds and four steals.

Taylor said he fully expected Wages to play on Friday.

“He’s a gutsy player,” Taylor said. “If there’s any way he can, he’ll play.”

Moline coach Ryan Webber said there was “a lot of doubt” on Wages’ availability until getting the medical OK to play.

Still, Wages did not use the injury as a crutch.

“The knee has nothing to do with this loss,” said Wages. “Our team just did not play collectively well. We did not play as five as one.”

Despite Moline being without Lindauer and wondering about Wages, Taylor remained wary of his team’s final conference road trip.

“Remember, that is the same team that beat Normal Community without Lindauer, and Normal Community is leading the Big 12,” said Taylor. “We have a lot of respect for coach Webber and how his teams play.”

The Blue Devils also have a lot of size that was tough for the Maroons to handle. Center DeAngelo Dean dominated, with 18 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots.

“DeAngelo is one of the best players in the league,” Taylor said. “We going to go to him and play through him. But I thought Mason Fairley and Martin Kvitle did a not job of getting the ball into him.”

No more than six points separated the two teams until Quincy took a 37-30 lead midway through the fourth quarter. QHS fended off the hosts by hitting just enough free throws down the stretch, doing 8 for 14 in the final frame.

Moline got 11 points from Mike Maffie, but no other Maroon got more than six, with Conner Welvaert adding a pair of 3-pointers. Through three quarters, Moline had just nine rebounds to Quincy’s 21.

— sports@whig.com/221-3365

Blue Devils slam door on Vikings in second half

Herald-Whig Sports Writer

Mike Davis was mad. At himself. At his play. At something.

“I thought I was doing bad,” Davis said. “So I was just mad. I had to take some pressure off somehow.”

The Quincy High School senior knew exactly how.

Just 16 seconds after teammate DeAngelo Dean threw down a two-handed dunk late in the third quarter Saturday night, Davis stole the ball at midcourt and drove uncontested for the first dunk of his career, providing an exclamation point on the Blue Devils’ 52-43 victory over Geneva at Blue Devil Gym.

“I had never gotten the chance to do that,” Davis said. “I had never gotten a breakaway or anything like that.”

Davis’ dunk came with 20 seconds left in the quarter and put Quincy ahead 35-28. The Blue Devils (15-6) proceeded to score on their first five possessions of the fourth quarter to extend the lead to double figures as they won their fifth game in a row.

Davis had back-to-back buckets at the end of that stretch, both coming off offensive rebounds as he finished with 12 points and four rebounds.

“It changed everything,” Dean said of the back-to-back dunks. “It’s when we started breaking away. Right after that, we got going.”

Actually, it was Quincy’s defense earlier in the third quarter that changed everything.

Tied at 23 at halftime as Geneva (12-9) controlled the tempo, Quincy took the lead as Mason Fairley buried a jumper in the lane on the Blue Devils’ first possession of the second half. Meanwhile, the Vikings didn’t score until 3:28 was left in the quarter and managed just five points in the pivotal period.

“I thought it was really important to get the lead,” Quincy coach Sean Taylor said. “If they got the lead, they were going to spread us out and run a lot of clock. Even behind, they play patient. But having the lead in the second half was really important for us.”

It forced Geneva to speed up more than it wanted to as the Vikings committed five turnovers and went 1 for 6 from the field. They were also outrebounded 6-3 in the third quarter.

“The key point was the defensive pressure they came with in the third quarter and we didn’t handle it very well,” Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. “That leads to the two dunks. That rattled us a little bit.”

Defense also kept the Vikings from making a fourth-quarter run.

Mike Trimble’s 3-pointer with 5:44 to go in regulation pulled Geneva within 42-36, but the Vikings didn’t score again until 1:55 remained. After that, Martin Kvitle did what he does best. He sank six consecutive free throws in the final 1:20 and has now hit 21 free throws in a row.

The Blue Devils were 11 of 12 from the line overall.

“Our team defense was really good against a team that runs really good plays,” Taylor said. “I just like they way our guys played together on defense.”

Dean nearly had his fourth consecutive double-double, finishing with 12 points and nine rebounds, while Kvitle led Quincy with 14 points. Brendan Leahy led Geneva with 21 points, hitting 4 of 5 3-pointers.

“We knew we couldn’t slow down to their pace,” Davis said. “I was like, ‘No, guys, we can’t score low. That’s not how we play.’ We wanted to make them go fast and we did.”

Sharp shooting at line lifts Blue Devils over Galesburg

0204126061233_largeBy MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writer

DeAngelo Dean never denied what he needed to improve to be a more complete basketball player.

“Free throws,” the Quincy High School senior forward said.

Mike Davis shared similar sentiments about his own game.

“Free-throw shooting,” he said when asked where he could improve.

Friday night, the Blue Devils showed just how much they have improved.

Quincy went 28 of 32 from the free-throw line with the frontcourt of Dean, Davis and Jason Salrin combining to go 14 of 18 in a 66-57 victory over Galesburg in Western Big Six Conference play at Blue Devil Gym.

“What I really like, and I hope I’m not jinxing them, but DeAngelo, Mike and Jason really take pride at working on their free throws and getting better,” Quincy coach Sean Taylor said.

Coming into Friday night, the QHS trio was shooting 52.7 percent from the line, but they got in rhythm like their teammates.

The Blue Devils made their first 13 attempts before Dean had one rattle out midway through the third quarter. They closed the game by making 7 of 8 in the final two minutes of regulation and outscored the Silver Streaks by 18 points at the line.

“You’re just not going to win like that,” Galesburg coach Mike Reynolds said.

Certainly not when Quincy keeps the ball in junior guard Martin Kvitle’s hands. He went 12 of 12 from the line, including going 6 of 6 in the fourth quarter, and finished with 15 points.

In the last seven games — the Blue Devils have won six of those — Kvitle is shooting 83 percent from the line overall (49 of 59) and 86.8 percent in the fourth quarter (33-38). For the season, he is shooting 78.9 percent from the line.

“He’s an outstanding foul shooter and he wants the ball late,” Taylor said. “That’s a good combination to have.”

It’s put Quincy (14-6, 4-3 WB6) in a good position.

The Blue Devils are in a four-way tie for second place in the WB6 following Rock Island’s 70-53 victory over East Moline and Rock Island Alleman’s 44-37 victory Moline. It leaves Rock Island alone in first place at 5-2, but Quincy could do no worse than tie for the championship if it wins its three remaining conference games.

“Our guys have given themselves a chance to have a big game next Friday,” said Taylor, whose team plays Moline on the road next week. “Then we’ll see what happens there. If we can win there, then the next game is a big game. They’ve given themselves an opportunity through their effort, their attitude and their chemistry. Now we’ll see what we can do next Friday.”

They’ll have to start and finish with a flurry, sort of like the Blue Devils did against the Silver Streaks (9-16, 0-7).

Quincy opened the game on an 11-3 run but didn’t score again until Kvitle’s 3-pointer 29 seconds into the second quarter ended a 4-minute, 35-second drought. The lead grew back to eight points before Aslan Butler’s three-point play pulled Galesburg within 20-18 with 2:27 to go in the half.

However, Quincy finished the half on an 8-2 run with Dean, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds, capping the flourish by following a Mason Fairley miss in transition with a putback.

“Those were effort plays,” Taylor said. “We just dug in and made really great basketball plays. That’s what this team does. They play so hard and they are not going to let each other down.”

Galesburg committed two turnovers in its final three possessions of the half.

“Sometimes that’s our bugaboo,” Reynolds said.

When Quincy scored the first two baskets of the second half to push the lead to double figures, the Silver Streaks faced too much of an uphill climb.

“This is the first time in the last couple of weeks where maybe the other team beat us instead of us kind of giving the game away,” he said.

Blue Devils gut out victory at Champaign Central

Herald-Whig Sports Writer

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — By now, the Quincy High School boys basketball players hope everyone realizes never to count them out.

“We’re a four-quarter team,” senior forward DeAngelo Dean said.

Saturday night, in the fourth quarter, the Blue Devils were at their best.

An 11-0 run to start the final frame allowed Quincy to erase a five-point deficit and the Blue Devils held Champaign Central scoreless for more than six minutes in securing a weekend road sweep with a 54-51 victory at historic Combes Gym.

“I thought we showed a lot of guts,” Quincy coach Sean Taylor said. “We could have said, ‘We played hard, we played well and we lost.’ But our kids dug deep.”

The Blue Devils (13-6) had to after seeing the lead slip away.

A 10-0 run by the Maroons in the middle of the third quarter had given them a five-point lead and they extended it 42-34 on Clayton Jones’ 3-pointer with 1 minute, 40 seconds remaining. Dean answered with a three-point play and the Maroons missed two 3-point attempts in the final minute, setting the stage for Quincy’s comeback.

“We said let’s go back to practice, back to our two-minute games,” junior guard Mason Fairley said. “It’s four two-minute games. If we win every one, we win the game. We took it one possession at a time. Get a stop, get a score. Get a stop, get a score.”

That’s how it played out.

Mike Davis’ layin started the fourth-quarter scoring for Quincy, and after forcing a turnover in the frontcourt, Fairley tied the game with a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 6:06 remaining. A missed 3-pointer by the Maroons led to Dean scoring from the low block for a 44-42 lead with 5:18 to go.

Central (13-7) missed two more 3-pointers, leading to buckets at the other end for Quincy as the Maroons went the first 4:57 of the fourth quarter without scoring and endured a scoring drought of 6:37. Central was 1 of 5 from 3-point range in the fourth quarter and 7 of 23 from long range overall. Part of the struggle was Quincy’s switch to a zone defense in the fourth quarter, the first time the Blue Devils ditched their traditional man-to-man defense the entire night.

“We went zone a little bit and that was sort of a crapshoot because they had made threes,” Taylor said. “We were hoping if they got open threes they would miss, and they missed a lot.”

Quincy wasn’t missing much — whether it was open shots or the open man.

The Blue Devils’ 7-of-11 shooting performance in the fourth quarter capped a night in which they shot 52.2 percent from the field (24 of 46) and had 19 assists.

“When we stand, it’s hard to score,” Dean said. “When everybody is hitting gaps, it’s great.”

Fairley and point guard Martin Kvitle led the Blue Devils with five assists apiece, but seven of the eight players who saw time had assists.

“Our guys are doing a great job of having their head up and playing toward the rim,” Taylor said. “And they are just unselfish. They’re playing really well together, and that’s a testament to them.”

They especially knew to get the ball to Dean. He went 12 of 19 from the field, finishing with 25 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots as he outplayed Central’s frontcourt of Corvon Butler, Xavier Martin and Jordan Caroline, who are all 6-foot-5 or taller.

The three Maroons combined for 20 points and 15 rebounds, going 8 of 18 from the field.

“I thought DeAngelo was a man inside,” Taylor said. “He was the best big against a team with several really good bigs.”

He had help. Fairley scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter and finished 3 of 4 from 3-point range. However, he hit two of the biggest shots down the stretch. First, he buried a 3-point from the left corner with 1:39 to go that put Quincy ahead 51-46.

Then, he made the first of two free throws with 23 seconds remaining to make it a three-point game.

“I stepped up there thinking, ‘Just like practice,'” Fairley said. “I make a hundred every day in practice. You just have to shoot it with confidence.”

Right now, the Blue Devils’ confidence is as high as it has been all season.

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

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

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.”