By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
QUINCY — Aaron Shoot understood the fear the Quincy High School boys basketball team might not be at the top of its game following a two-week layoff.
“You can come out with a bunch of rust on you, and you can give up a bunch of easy looks on defense and not have any energy whatsoever,” Shoot said.
Or you can play with the kind of fervor the Blue Devils showed Friday night.
Quincy blitzed Galesburg by forcing two turnovers and scoring six points in the first 1 minute, 14 seconds and held the Silver Streaks to 1-of-12 shooting from the field in the first quarter. The tide and the tempo never changed as the Blue Devils rolled to a 55-26 Western Big Six Conference victory at Blue Devil Gym.
“We were on the opposite side of the spectrum,” said Shoot, the junior guard who scored the game’s first four points and finished with 12 points, six steals and four assists. “We came out intense. We came out hot. That set us up for the rest of the game with our energy and our intensity.”
It allowed the Blue Devils to forget about the looming threat of a union strike for a little while at least.
The Quincy Federation of Teachers and Educational Support Personnel plans to walk off the job Tuesday, which means no classes and no extra-curricular activities can take place. If an agreement is not reached by Thursday, Quincy must forfeit next Friday’s game at Moline.
The Blue Devils also are scheduled to play Batavia next Saturday at Blue Devil Gym, where they have won 23 straight games.
“It’s always in the back of our minds,” said QHS senior forward Parker Bland, who had 12 points and six rebounds. “We try not to talk about it too much. We focus on what’s in front of us.”
Quincy coach Andy Douglas stressed the need to be focused during a turbulent time.
“The message he gave us before the game is this is like our sanctuary,” Shoot said. “It doesn’t matter what’s going on outside. It doesn’t matter what’s going on at home. It doesn’t matter what’s going on in your personal life. When you step foot on this court, nothing else matters but playing Blue Devil basketball.”
The Blue Devils, who hadn’t played since going 2-2 at the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic, used the first quarter Friday night to remind each other what that means.
Galesburg missed its first 11 shots and didn’t score a field goal until T.J. Pendleton’s reverse layup with 48 seconds left in the quarter that ended a 20-2 Quincy run. The Silver Streaks trailed 22-6 after the Blue Devils’ Garrett Gadeke made a fadeaway jumper along the baseline in the final second of the frame.
The Blue Devils scored on eight of their first nine possessions and went 9 of 12 from the field in the first eight minutes.
“They played outstanding and got in a good rhythm,” Galesburg coach Mike Reynolds said. “Hopefully the adults in town can get everything taken care of so they can play next Friday, too.”
The Silver Streaks turned the ball over on their first two possessions of the game, their first three possessions of the second quarter and 18 times overall.
When Galesburg avoided Quincy’s pressure, it still struggled to score. The Silver Streaks made just 7 of 34 shots (20.6 percent) and 2 of 17 3-pointers (11.8 percent).
“We had to come out with the intensity we wanted to be here,” Quincy sophomore guard Jirehl Brock said. “Our defense builds our offense. When we get steals and get buckets in transition, it gets the crowd going. And it gets us going.”
The Blue Devils never let up. They shot 55.3 percent from the field (21 of 38) and didn’t allow the Silver Streaks to reach double figures in any quarter.
“Focus,” Douglas said. “They really were focused in.”
That nearly brought Douglas to tears.
“I got kind of emotional in the first half thinking of the potential strike and thinking of these guys,” Douglas said. “The one thing that every coach asks is, ‘Give us everything you’ve got, and we’ll give you everything we’ve got.’ They’ve done that for me every year that I’ve been here.
“But the focus they came out with tonight, especially with everything going on, was unparalleled. That makes you proud.”