By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — Knowing they might have to face Edwardsville’s spread-the-floor and slow-it-down attack, the Quincy High School basketball players wanted to know the best way to defend it.
Quincy coach Sean Taylor had only one piece of advice.
“Don’t get down,” he told them at Thursday’s practice.
If only it had been that easy.
A 4-for-21 shooting performance in the first half left the Blue Devils trailing Friday night’s Class 4A Edwardsville Regional championship game the final 28 minutes, and back-to-back three-point plays by the Tigers early in the fourth quarter provided the separation that led to a 59-43 victory at Lucco-Jackson Gym.
“They’re so disciplined,” Quincy guard Martin Kvitle said of top-seeded Edwardsville. “They don’t make mistakes that let you get back in the game.”
The Tigers hardly had a misstep in the second half. Edwardsville’s starting five went 11 of 15 from the floor, 2 of 3 from 3-point range and 17 of 18 from the free-throw line with just three turnovers the final 16 minutes, outscoring Quincy’s starting five 42-22.
Edwardsville (22-5) scored on 14 of 16 fourth-quarter possessions before Tigers coach Mike Waldo emptied the bench.
“Our guys pass the ball well and look for each other well,” said Waldo, whose team will face Belleville West in Tuesday’s sectional semifinals at Collisnville. “I thought Quincy chased the ball well, but that’s hard to do when you have five guys on the floor who can handle the ball. I thought they did a good job of chasing us, but we were solid with the ball.”
The Tigers were clutch when it counted, too.
Trailing by as many as seven points in the third quarter, the Blue Devils (20-7) narrowed the gap to 27-24 when Mason Fairley hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 50 seconds left. The Tigers spread the floor, milked the clock and put the ball in the hands of sophomore point guard Shawn Roundtree as the seconds dwindled.
Roundtree drove to the high post and kicked to Josh White in the right corner for a 3-pointer with three seconds left to give Edwardsville a two-possession lead.
“I thought that was the tide-turning moment,” Taylor said. “I think that gave them momentum. I think our guys thought they were playing great. But we’re down six and then they get into their delay game, and that’s just so tough to guard.”
For a moment, though, Quincy looked like it might weather the storm.
On the opening possession of the fourth quarter, Fairley set up Mike Davis for a layin and a three-point play to trim Edwardsville’s lead to 30-27. The Tigers knew how to answer.
On back-to-back possessions, Edwardsville got behind Quincy’s defense, scored on layins and made free throws to finish off three-point plays that pushed the lead to eight. The Blue Devils’ uphill climb turned into scaling a mountain.
“That kind of deflated us,” Fairley said. “And it’s tough to come back on a team that is making free throws.”
It’s even harder when you’re not making shots.
Quincy shot just 26 percent from the floor (13 of 50) and 25 percent from 3-point range (4 of 16). DeAngelo Dean, who was shooting 56 percent from the field on the season, was the Blue Devils’ only double-digit scorer with 14 points, but he was 5 of 18 from the field.
Kvitle, the team’s second-leading scorer at 12.7 points per game, finished with just three and was 0 for 6 from the field.
In contrast, Edwardsville had four players in double figures, and the starting five combined to shoot 54.5 percent from the field.
“We were able to spread the floor and dictate,” Waldo said. “That gave us good looks.”
It continued a trend as well. Edwardsville, which won its ninth regional title in the last 10 years, has eliminated Quincy from the postseason in four of Taylor’s nine seasons as head coach.
That’s a trend Taylor wants to see end.
“It would be nice,” he said.
More shots need to fall, though, when the game is in balance. Five times, Quincy cut the deficit to one possession. Four times, the Blue Devils failed to score on their next possession.
“We had opportunities to win the game, and that’s all we can ask for,” Fairley said.