By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
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.