Nothing Bland about him: Senior forward helping Blue Devils close in on milestones

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Feb. 23, 2017 1:50 am

QUINCY — Parker Bland didn’t know why Sean Taylor would be calling him into the coach’s office.

“My nerves immediately perked up,” Bland said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”

What Taylor, the former Quincy High School boys basketball coach, had in mind was something unique and rare. Bland, a freshman during the 2013-14 season, was being moved up to the varsity and told he would start in the second game of the QHS Thanksgiving Tournament against Algonquin Jacobs.

“There were butterflies,” Bland said. “It was an indescribable feeling.”

It was unforgettable, too. Bland scored four points and grabbed three rebounds as the Blue Devils earned a 44-41 victory over Jacobs.

“That’s something that you can’t forget,” Bland said. “Having all the support from the seniors at that time, having support from friends, it was so incredible.”

Fast forward to today and Bland is getting prepared to play his final game at home when the Blue Devils play host to Moline on Friday night. Quincy has an opportunity to win the Western Big Six Conference championship outright and extend its home winning streak to 29 consecutive games, two milestones extremely important to Bland and his fellow seniors.

“To know the tradition behind the program, it’s not something you take for granted,” Bland said. “When you sit down and think about it, it’s incredible.”

So is the personal milestone Bland is nearing.

The 6-foot-4 forward heads into the final regular season game with 974 career points and could become the 21st player in program history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. Eighteen of the 20 members of the exclusive club are inducted into the QHS Hall of Fame, and 2010 graduate Zach Forbes isn’t eligible yet.

Bland, who is averaging 15.8 points per game this season, will reach 1,000 points if he hits his average in the next two games.

“It’s mind-blowing to know I’m even in that position,” Bland said. “For that to happen, it would be a miracle. It’s something I’ve thought about since Day 1, but you can’t overthink it. You can’t worry about it. If it comes, you’re blessed.

“I still take a step back and make sure I don’t take anything lightly. You treasure every moment.”

That includes the sweat equity he’s earned.

Bland’s commitment to improving has resulted in developing a complete game. He was 6 of 22 from 3-point range for his career, but this season, he’s made 19 3-pointers and is shooting 44.2 percent from beyond the arc.

“He’s impacting the game in a variety of ways,” QHS coach Andy Douglas said. “He’s not just going at the basket.”

That’s because Douglas and the coaching pushed him to be a more complete player.

“Coach said going into my junior year that I was going to have to develop a right hand and develop a mid-range jumper,” Bland said. “I worked on that a lot. I started to get into that routine my junior year, but it didn’t hit me how important it was until after my junior year.

“That’s when he got me into the weight room and got me into the gym. He had me focusing on my ball-handling and my perimeter game.”

It wasn’t always easy, but Bland developed the maturity and leadership is takes to impact the game in all facets.

“He brings it in practice, which the kids see every day,” Douglas said. “Coming in every single practice ready to work means so much.”

It was the only way to get better.

“The coaches have allowed me to make mistakes, but those mistakes have improved my game, improved my basketball IQ and improved my decisions on and off the court,” Bland said.

It’s caught the eye of college coaches.

Bland has been in contact with coaches from Quincy University, Hanniba-LaGrange University, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and the University of Sioux Falls and plans to visit those schools once his season ends.

“With his size, his athleticism and his quickness, he has the ability to play at the next level,” Douglas said.

Everything that has happened the last four years will have Bland well prepared for whatever is to come.

“Even now, and you can ask my teammates about this, I get nervous before the big games come up,” Bland said. “But having that experience of having gone through them definitely helps. It allows me to help settle my teammates who don’t have that experience.

“How I come out and how I react is important. How I handle things is important.”

Senior Night 2017

This Friday we will celebrate the careers of our seniors Zach Aschemann, Garrett Gadeke, Logan Brunenn, Parker Bland, Deven Smith and Garrett Scott.  These guys have been great leaders for our program and are leaving a lasting legacy for future Blue Devil basketball players.  Help us celebrate before we take on Moline!

Quincy hands state-ranked Geneva second straight defeat

Geneva’s Matt Johnson loses a tipped ball to Quincy High’s Jaeden Smith during Geneva’s game against Quincy on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. At right is Geneva’s Dominic Navigato. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Feb. 18, 2017 12:01 am Updated: Feb. 18, 2017 11:30 pm

QUINCY — The Quincy High School boys basketball team expects its defense to help it win games.

Saturday night, the offense did its part, too.

Quincy shot 52.3 percent from the floor to hand Class 4A No. 8 Geneva its second straight loss in a 63-45 victory at Blue Devil Gym. The victory was Quincy’s 28th straight at home, and the Blue Devils can extend that streak in next Friday’s game against Moline along with winning an outright Western Big Six Conference championship.

“We always talk about energy on the defensive side and that’s an emphasis in this program,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “But tonight we were energetic on offense. We were able to get the ball inside and crash the glass.

“Parker Bland was huge for us tonight with those offensive rebounds.”

Bland needed just five minutes to show the Vikings (26-2) he was going to control the basket area.

The Quincy senior forward corralled four offensive boards in the opening quarter, and he turned each into a putback. He scored 10 points in the first eight minutes to give Quincy (20-4) a 20-8 lead.

“We just knew we had to be more physical than them,” Bland said. “I definitely feel like we were able to do that.”

The Blue Devils made that an emphasis knowing the Vikings lost their first game of the season — a 62-20 overtime setback on Friday to St. Charles North — and could come into Quincy with more fire.

“We kind of wished we could have handed the first loss here,” Bland said. “Being able to jump on them early got them down on themselves and flustered. That helped to our benefit.”

Bland and sophomore guard Jaeden Smith combined for 20 of Quincy’s first 22 points. Smith scored the Blue Devils’ first six points on a pair of 3-pointers well beyond the arc.

“They were giving it to me so I took it,” Smith said. “My shot’s been on the last couple weeks. It’s never felt better.”

Bland didn’t attempt a shot in the second quarter, but made his first five shots of the third quarter to help Quincy build a 44-23 advantage with 4:07 remaining. He finished with a game-high 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds, five offensive.

Smith added 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range and three assists.

“Bland just jumped up, grabbed it and put it right back in,” Geneva coach Phil Ralston said.

Quincy led by double digits for the entire second half and shot 59 percent in the second half. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils held the Vikings to 37.5 percent shooting in the second half and 39 percent for the game.

“The word I’d use is efficient,” Douglas said. “We were efficient on offense and defense tonight.”

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.