At critical juncture, Shoot’s leadership proves invaluable for Blue Devils

By  Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 16, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Dec. 16, 2017 11:10 pm

When Andy Douglas sat down — by rule, not by choice — he momentarily feared things could begin to unravel if the Quincy High School boys basketball team didn’t show some composure.

The most composed player on the floor made sure Douglas didn’t have to worry.

“Once again, it comes back to a word I use quite often, that’s leadership,” Douglas said. “Aaron Shoot got everyone together and said, ‘Hey, we’re not letting this one go.’

“He kind of had a look in his eye of ‘Coach, we got this. I’ve got this.'”

Three minutes remained in the third quarter Saturday night at the Pit in the annual renewal of the crosstown rivalry with Quincy Notre Dame when Douglas, the fourth-year QHS coach, slammed his fist down on the padding of the media table in disgust over a foul call on Shoot.

A long rebound of a missed 3-pointer turned into a fastbreak opportunity for the Raiders’ Tommy Ray. Hustling back defensively, Shoot slipped in behind Ray in hopes of causing enough of a distraction for him to miss the layup. Whatever contact occurred was enough to draw a foul call from official Mike Bromley.

Douglas’ response earned him a technical foul, and Bromley very demonstratively told the coach to sit down.

In a raucous environment, the Blue Devils could have been hijacked emotionally. Instead, Shoot made sure they stayed focused.

“Aaron said, ‘We’re not going to worry about it. We’re going to stretch our lead, and they’re not coming back,” QHS senior forward Ben Amos said. “Aaron was the motivator. He believed it, I believed it, and I think the team believed it.”

That’s the confidence a leader shining through.

“When we see Coach Douglas get fired up like that and put himself out there for the team, it definitely gets us fired up,” Shoot said. “It’s like, ‘Hey, it’s time to go now. Stop messing around and turn it on.'”

Ray’s four free throws tied the game at 34, but Shoot gave the Blue Devils the lead for good with a layup two possessions later. After Ben Amos was called for a foul blocking a Jase Wallingford shot on the next possession, Shoot corralled Amos and made sure he didn’t say or do anything to get hit with a technical foul of his own.

Shoot then fed Amos for a field goal from the block as he orchestrated a 9-0 run that gave the Blue Devils some breathing room.

“That’s who he is,” Douglas said. “To dominate the ball the way he did in the second half was impressive. He pretty much keep running spread and saying, ‘Keep giving me the ball. If I get a shot, I get a shot. If I don’t and they send a double team, I’ll get it to the open guy.’ He made the right decision nearly every time.”

Such a presence is invaluable.

The Blue Devils won the championship of the 47th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament despite Shoot playing only one game after suffering a sprained ankle in the second half of the season opener.

It wasn’t until the following weekend when the Blue Devils suffered an epic loss at Moline and a heart-breaking loss to Oswego that Shoot’s leadership was truly missed. It pained him to sit idly by and watch it happen, so much so that after tweaking the injury again Friday night in the victory at Rock Island, there was no way he was going to sit again.

His direction and control proved invaluable.

“There were a couple times, myself included, where we got a little bit out of control and shot a couple of bad shots,” Shoot said. “In the second and third quarters, I tried to start getting us in spots getting us to execute good offensive plays. It led to easy buckets, and it kind of broke them down and slowed their pressure down. That’s what ultimately gave us the lead.”

Shoot wouldn’t let go of it.

“The way he’s fought through as much adversity as he’s already had to fight through, to come out tonight and put the team on his back and refuse to lose, that was huge for us,” Douglas said.

Planned to perfection: Blue Devils’ Amos rising to occasion on every level

By  Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 18, 2017 12:15 am Updated: Dec. 18, 2017 8:34 am

Where and when the plan was hatched is inconsequential at this point.

All that mattered to Aaron Shoot and Ben Amos was finding the chance to execute it.

Prior to the fourth quarter Saturday night, there hadn’t been a moment set up for a rim-rattling dunk. Yet, in the closing minutes against Quincy Notre Dame, in front of a packed house at the Pit, it nearly happened.

With the Quincy High School boys basketball team leading by six, Shoot drove hard to the lane and had a chance to go at the rim with Amos trailing him from the high post. Shoot was fouled and never had the opportunity to toss an alley-oop off the backboard.

“He was looking at me and was like, ‘That was the one. Throw that,'” Shoot said.

Two possessions later, Shoot didn’t waste a second chance.

“As soon as I got the steal, I turned and looked at him,” Shoot said. “I didn’t look back again. I just took off, threw it off the glass and counted on him being there.”

Amos didn’t disappoint. Catching the ball with both hands, he hammered down a two-handed dunk that was exclamation point on the Blue Devils’ 58-46 victory, their third straight in the crosstown rivalry.

Moreso, it was the exclamation point on Amos’ arrival into the big time.

The 6-foot-5 senior forward has been efficient and effective all season as the Blue Devils’ primary — often only — big man. He came into the game averaging 11.4 points after a 17-point effort last Friday in the victory at Rock Island and was shooting 54.2 percent from the field.

Yet, he was faced with the task of taking on QND’s big men — 6-8 Jase Wallingford and 6-4, 290-pound Jonny Bottorff. Wallingford was coming off a career-high 19-point performance against Palmyra and Bottorff was considered the immovable force.

Wallingford and Bottorff combined for eight points and four rebounds and attempted just four field goals. Meanwhile, Amos made the first basket of the game on a jumper in the middle of the lane, scored the last one with the dunk and finished with 18 points on 8-of-10 shooting from the field to go along with eight rebounds and four blocked shots.

He made it abundantly clear he can hold his own.

“One-hundred percent, he was the best big man on the floor,” Shoot said. “That’s no disrespect to the school across town. They have incredible big guys, too, and they all played well. I just think he won the battle. I have confidence in our players, and I think he was the best player on the floor.

“That shows his mental toughness and how far he’s come.”

A year ago, Amos was the first player off the QHS bench when the season began and started the final game during the QHS Thanksgiving Tournament. However, by the time the QND game rolled around, his minutes had dwindled. He finished the season averaging 1.6 points and 1.3 rebounds.

It left a lingering doubt how Amos would handle the workload this season.

He’s erased all those doubts.

“He’s getting better and better every single game and you can see that,” Shoot said. “He’s in another zone right now. He’s really locked in.”

That shows up in the boxscore.

What doesn’t is his commanding presence in the lane and along the baseline defensively.

“You can look at 18 points and be wowed by that,” QHS coach Andy Douglas said. “What I’m wowed by is his defense. He had the best block of the night, which ended up being a foul, but you saw there he wasn’t going to let it be easy on anyone inside.”

Douglas was referencing the foul called on Amos as he tried to block Wallingford’s shot late in the third quarter.

Amos’ reaction showed he felt he blocked the shot cleanly, but instead of getting irate with the call, he made quick amends. Wallingford missed both free throws, and Amos scored from the block on the ensuing possession. It was part of an 11-1 run that gave the Blue Devils control.

“He kept his emotions in check,” Douglas said. “For the most part, our guys did a good job of that. It’s an emotional environment. It’s an emotional weekend. We did a decent job of holding things in check, and that comes back to seniors showing their leadership.”

By doing so, it opened up the opportunity to have a little fun.

Shoot and Amos had the perfect plan in place for such an occasion.

Technical Knockout: Raiders tie score after T on Douglas, but Blue Devils’ defense takes over

By  Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 16, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Dec. 17, 2017 1:50 am

QUINCY — For the second consecutive year, a technical foul turned the tide in the annual basketball showdown between Quincy High School and Quincy Notre Dame.

A technical foul on Blue Devils coach Andy Douglas led to four consecutive free throws for the Raiders and a 34-34 score with three minutes to play in the third quarter. However, QHS buckled down and didn’t allow a field goal for the next 6 1/2 minutes and went on to win 58-46 on Saturday night in the Pit.

QND was leading last year’s game 39-38 late in the third quarter when an offensive foul against Jacob Mayfield was followed by a technical foul. The Raiders eventually lost their momentum and lost 68-50.

QND was trailing 34-30 on Saturday when Jacob Ary’s jump shot was blocked by Tommy Ray. Mac Little swatted the rebound ahead to Ray, who missed a layup while being harassed by Aaron Shoot. Official Mike Bromley called a foul on Shoot, and when Douglas protested, Bromley slapped him with the technical.

“I didn’t think Aaron hit him,” Douglas said. “I thought he swiped at the ball. I was a little upset about that. I told the coaching staff, ‘What’s it going to take to get a foul called on our end of the court?’ I found out.”

This time, the technical foul gave the Blue Devils reason to regroup — and redouble their defensive efforts. Shoot gathered the team to talk while Ray made his free throws.

Quincy High coach Andy Douglas has words for an official after Douglas was given a technical foul during the Blue Devils’ game against Quincy Notre Dame Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017, at the Pit. | H-W Photo/Phil Carlson 

“I was wondering if we were going to stay composed, but I knew we would because of our senior leadership,” junior guard Jaeden Smith said. “We know how to play together and play hard.”

The Blue Devils closed the third quarter with seven straight points. Shoot stole the ball for a layup, then found Ben Amos for a basket. His pull-up jumper from the free-throw line was followed by an Amos free throw.

“(The Blue Devils) got together, and they got their composure,” Raiders coach Kevin Meyer said. “We didn’t lose our compusure, but we were like, ‘Oh, hey, we’re tied.’ There was a little different sense of urgency on the other side.”

Smith opened the fourth quarter with a layup on a pass from Jirehl Brock, and after Ray split two free throws, Shoot scored with 6:31 to play to give QHS the biggest lead of the game at 45-35 with 6:31 to play.

Meanwhile, the Raiders went 13 consecutive possessions without a basket until Ray made a 3-pointer with 4:27 to play. Amos closed the Blue Devils’ defensive run by blocking shots by Ray and Little, then forcing Ray into a difficult shot along the baseline.

“We’re very aggressive defensively, and a lot of teams QND faces play more relaxed zones,” Amos said. “We pressure off the first pass, and it wasn’t something they experienced at our tempo.

“If they do get by us, I’m back there.”

The Blue Devils’ zone choked off any sort of inside advantage the Raiders have enjoyed against several opponents season. Jase Wallingford, Jonny Bottorff and Clay Venvertloh combined for just six shots and 11 points.

“Honestly, I don’t really know why we didn’t get it inside,” Wallingford said. “They were just flying around. If we do get it in there, everybody collapses and we get more open shots, but they just did a good job and stopped us from what we do best.”

QND made just six 2-point shots in the game, none coming in the second half, and turned the ball over 21 times.

“We were stagnant, flat-footed, in the first half,” Douglas said. “I told them to extend a little bit (in the second half). Don’t be afraid to anticipate some passes. I thought we had a little more bounce and a little more energy.”

“I give (the Blue Devils) a ton of credit,” Meyer said. “They did a good job of rotating. We have to get the ball in the middle (of the zone) quickly, and we have to attack before they rotate, but we didn’t do what we wanted to do. We moved the ball side from side, and that wasn’t good for us.”

The Raiders eventually cut the lead to six points on three occasions in the fourth quarter but could get no closer.

Little had 12 for the Raiders. Shoot had 23 for the Blue Devils. Amos scored 18 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked four shots — as well as advice for his coach the next time a technical foul might be coming.

“Keep doing it,” he said with a grin. “It’s a motivator. It puts a spark in us tonight. We took it upon ourselves, and we all stepped up.”

Blue Devils come out blazing in first quarter

By MARC NESSELER
Special to The Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 8, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Dec. 9, 2017 1:12 am

ROCK ISLAND – Alleman coach Kyle Murray figured that Quincy High School would come out fired out for Friday night’s boys’ basketball matchup at Don Morris Gymnasium.

However, he couldn’t have fathomed that the Devils would have THAT kind of start.

Quincy scored the first 18 points and Alleman didn’t score until 100 seconds were left in the first quarter as the Blue Devils cruised in their second week of Western Big Six road tests, winning 66-50.

“Let’s face facts. We knew Quincy would come out fired up, especially after last year’s upset (by the Pioneers at Morris Gym),” Murray said. “Plus they had their best guard (Aaron Shoot) back, so that’s going to give them confidence, and they way they shot gave them even more confidence. It just snowballed.”

Throw in the fact that Quincy suffered its worst WB6 loss ever last week against Wharton Field House against Moline and, yeah, the Blue Devils (4-2, 1-1 WB6) were highly motivated.

Quincy coach Andy Douglas, though, said there was even more to that stunning – and Morris Gym silencing – start.

“I think it was the energy here. It’s a very unique atmosphere,” he said. “This is a special place where their fans generate a lot of energy, and our guys created their own energy.”

Quincy hit nine of its 10 first-quarter shots in building a 21-4 lead. That carried over into the second quarter as well, as the Blue Devils finished the half with a 15-of-22 showing. One of those misses came at the halftime horn by Jirehl Brock, only his second miss of that half. He finished with team highs of 16 points and five rebounds.

Brock also was the focus of attention in the game’s final minutes when he went down hard after a shot attempt and took a knee to the head. He suffered a deep gash above his left eye, with Douglas saying he was fine “after they Krazy Glued it.”

The night was going to be memorable for Alleman with the halftime Hall of Fame inductions of Peter Callas, Mike Ebner, AJ Ledbetter and the 1998 softball team. However, it looked as if, basketball-wise, it was going to one to quickly forgettable.

Instead, Alleman (6-2, 1-1) bounced back to make a representative showing, outscoring Quincy by two points outside of that 18-0 start.

“One thing our guys know is that you can’t go back on your heels. You’ve got to be aggressive with your play,” Douglas said. “At halftime, they knew that with two quarters left, anything could happen.”

To get to the finish with a margin close to the start, Quincy got strong bench play. Adonte Crider had 11 points, Zarious Smith-Palmer added six and Lucas Reis had four. The latter two were Quincy’s last reserves.

To get the game down to an 11-point deficit before Quincy had a five-point game-ending run, the Pioneers counted heavily on Andrew Barrett. He finished with game-highs of 17 points, all but two of those in the second half, and nine rebounds.

“We knew we would hit some adversity at some point,” Barrett said, pointing to the game’s outset. “In a way, it’s good to get that out of the way. We knew Quincy was going to be tough coming out of that Moline game (a week ago), but we showed we can play with a lot of teams” by the way the Pioneers battled back.

“We made some adjustments to pick up the pressure in the second half,” Murray noted. “I think we caught Quincy off-guard with that.”

The Alleman coach says his team must get used to teams coming in as the Blue Devils did.

“To go from the hunter to the hunted, we have to be mentally prepared,” he said. “Teams will come after us.”

Let it rain: Blue Devils make 15 treys in victory

By  Herald-Whig

Posted: Nov. 24, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Nov. 24, 2017 11:20 pm

QUINCY — The Quincy High School boys basketball players knew it wouldn’t be easy to replace Aaron Shoot.

Friday night, the efficieny of the offense made it easy to forget the senior guard wasn’t there.

Junior guard Jaeden Smith made five 3-pointers in the first quarter to spring the Blue Devils to an early lead in a 68-45 victory over Chicago Dunbar in the 47th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament at Blue Devil Gym.

“I was feeling good. During warmups I felt great, and it just carried over into the game,” said Smith, who went 8 of 14 from 3-point range and finished with a game-high 24 points. “We always want to start fast and come out strong to set the tone for the rest of the game.”

The rest of the Blue Devils (2-0) got the memo, as they went 9 of 11 from the field in the first eight minutes to build a 26-9 lead.

That was with Shoot sitting on the bench. After suffering a sprained left ankle during Thursday’s season opener against Providence St. Mel, Shoot was ruled out for the remainder of the weekend.

Quincy will face St. Louis Northwest Academy at 7:30 p.m. Saturday looking for a clean sweep of the tournament. The Hornets suffered a 72-59 loss to St. Mel on Friday night.

“We knew that we were playing without one of our biggest offensive threats,” QHS guard Jirehl Brock said. “Jaeden, being the shooter that he is, kept firing it up. Everybody builds off of that and everybody starts hitting.”

QHS maintained its lead in the second quarter to take a 39-25 advantage into halftime. Six different Blue Devils scored in the first 16 minutes.

“(Smith) was huge tonight. He had the confidence that we’ve come to know him to have,” QHS coach Andy Douglas said. “He stepped up and knocked down those outside shots. Still, we can’t expect one guy to carry the load for us. We were lucky to have a few different guys step up at random times to make plays for us.”

The lead grew to 55-35 after three quarters as the Blue Devils had 12 steals. QHS finished with 13 takeaways, led by Smith, Brock and Ben Amos with three apiece.

“I liked how we’re all over the place. We were flying around,” Douglas said. “Deflections give us energy, like gas to cars. Once we get those, we know we’re doing our job and getting in passing lanes.”

The Blue Devils emptied their bench in the fourth quarter without having a dropoff on the defensive end, as Dunbar had just two field goals in the final eight minutes that included a halfcourt heave that beat the final buzzer.

“Our program has hung its hat on defense,” Douglas said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s the first guy or the last guy on the bench. We have a team that cares about getting stops.”

Brock finished with 10 points, while Adonte Crider had 14 points off the bench. Amos had nine points, a pair of blocks and eight rebounds as the Blue Devils outperformed the Mightymen 27-16 on the glass.

Blue Devils’ confidence grows as injury creates adversity

By  Herald-Whig

Posted: Nov. 24, 2017 3:15 am

QUINCY — Of all the lessons the Quincy High School boys basketball team learned Thursday night, the most valuable is also the most worrisome.

The Blue Devils figured out they can withstand an injury.

Still, how long senior point guard Aaron Shoot will be sidelined is cause for concern.

Shoot scored 12 of his game-high 27 points in the third quarter of a 76-69 victory over Providence St. Mel in the 47th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament and seemed well on his way to an epic night. Yet, with 45 seconds remaining in the third quarter, he made a jump pass in the backcourt, landed awkwardly and rolled over in pain.

He limped off the floor and sat on the edge of the bench with his shoe off and an ice bag wrapped around his sprained left ankle.

“Aaron is our ring leader and we all know that,” Quincy junior guard Jirehl Brock said. “He’s a veteran guy, and he’s a guy who really knows how to control the ball and control tempo. Tonight, we learned we’re going to have to find ways to do without sometimes.

“He’s not going to be able to be in the whole game every game. We’re going to have to find ways to maneuver without him, and this was a prime example of it.”

Shoot didn’t return and watched as the Knights trimmed a 16-point deficit to nine less than two minutes into the fourth quarter. Eventually, the Blue Devils settled down, pushed the lead back to as many as 20 and didn’t have to sweat out the final minutes.

“It doesn’t feel so good when you have that kind of ending,” said Quincy senior forward Ben Amos, who finished with 11 points, six rebounds, two assists, two blocked shots and a steal. “But we played very well to begin with. It was a great start. At points, we showed what we can do, and that’s what is important.

“We didn’t play like we should play the whole time, but we did play like we can play at spots.”

When that happened, Providence St. Mel had no answer.

Tied at 9 six minutes into the game, Quincy took the lead for good by finishing the first quarter on a 6-0 run with all six points scored by Shoot. Amos buried a 3-pointer on the Blue Devils’ first possession of the second quarter, and defensively, they turned up the intensity.

The run turned into a 15-0 spurt capped by Brock’s steal and layup with 4:21 remaining in the first half that gave the Blue Devils a 24-9 edge. The Knights committed six turnovers and missed six shots in that stretch.

“The way our guys came out was our biggest concern,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “How are we going to open the season? I thought our guys did a really good job of staying focused and sticking to the gameplan.”

That was to be physical against the bigger Knights. The Blue Devils did not allow an offensive rebound during the Knights’ drought and were outrebounded only 35-33 overall. Brock finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds, while all eight Blue Devils who played grabbed at least one rebounds.

“Our guys did a really good job of finding people,” Douglas said. “They may not have gotten every single rebound, but they found guys and punished and boxed them out to give themselves a chance.”

The Blue Devils ended the half strong, too. They scored on four of their final six possessions with Shoot burying a step-back 3-pointer just before the buzzer.

Not bad for a player who rolled his right ankle in practice Wednesday and was forced to sit and rest it.

Now, it’s more of the same. Shoot, who was given a walking boot before leaving Blue Devil Gym on Thursday night, will ice and rest his left ankle to decrease the swelling.

“Whether it’s tomorrow, Saturday or next week, we just hope he gets back healthy,” Douglas said.

Until then, the Blue Devils gained some confidence they can thrive.

“It’s difficult and we rely on him heavily,” Amos said. “He’s a huge presence for us. He’s great at breaking presses. We showed we can pass the ball really well, we can break presses and we can handle it without him.”