By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
DeAngelo Dean never denied what he needed to improve to be a more complete basketball player.
“Free throws,” the Quincy High School senior forward said.
Mike Davis shared similar sentiments about his own game.
“Free-throw shooting,” he said when asked where he could improve.
Friday night, the Blue Devils showed just how much they have improved.
Quincy went 28 of 32 from the free-throw line with the frontcourt of Dean, Davis and Jason Salrin combining to go 14 of 18 in a 66-57 victory over Galesburg in Western Big Six Conference play at Blue Devil Gym.
“What I really like, and I hope I’m not jinxing them, but DeAngelo, Mike and Jason really take pride at working on their free throws and getting better,” Quincy coach Sean Taylor said.
Coming into Friday night, the QHS trio was shooting 52.7 percent from the line, but they got in rhythm like their teammates.
The Blue Devils made their first 13 attempts before Dean had one rattle out midway through the third quarter. They closed the game by making 7 of 8 in the final two minutes of regulation and outscored the Silver Streaks by 18 points at the line.
“You’re just not going to win like that,” Galesburg coach Mike Reynolds said.
Certainly not when Quincy keeps the ball in junior guard Martin Kvitle’s hands. He went 12 of 12 from the line, including going 6 of 6 in the fourth quarter, and finished with 15 points.
In the last seven games — the Blue Devils have won six of those — Kvitle is shooting 83 percent from the line overall (49 of 59) and 86.8 percent in the fourth quarter (33-38). For the season, he is shooting 78.9 percent from the line.
“He’s an outstanding foul shooter and he wants the ball late,” Taylor said. “That’s a good combination to have.”
It’s put Quincy (14-6, 4-3 WB6) in a good position.
The Blue Devils are in a four-way tie for second place in the WB6 following Rock Island’s 70-53 victory over East Moline and Rock Island Alleman’s 44-37 victory Moline. It leaves Rock Island alone in first place at 5-2, but Quincy could do no worse than tie for the championship if it wins its three remaining conference games.
“Our guys have given themselves a chance to have a big game next Friday,” said Taylor, whose team plays Moline on the road next week. “Then we’ll see what happens there. If we can win there, then the next game is a big game. They’ve given themselves an opportunity through their effort, their attitude and their chemistry. Now we’ll see what we can do next Friday.”
They’ll have to start and finish with a flurry, sort of like the Blue Devils did against the Silver Streaks (9-16, 0-7).
Quincy opened the game on an 11-3 run but didn’t score again until Kvitle’s 3-pointer 29 seconds into the second quarter ended a 4-minute, 35-second drought. The lead grew back to eight points before Aslan Butler’s three-point play pulled Galesburg within 20-18 with 2:27 to go in the half.
However, Quincy finished the half on an 8-2 run with Dean, who had 16 points and 11 rebounds, capping the flourish by following a Mason Fairley miss in transition with a putback.
“Those were effort plays,” Taylor said. “We just dug in and made really great basketball plays. That’s what this team does. They play so hard and they are not going to let each other down.”
Galesburg committed two turnovers in its final three possessions of the half.
“Sometimes that’s our bugaboo,” Reynolds said.
When Quincy scored the first two baskets of the second half to push the lead to double figures, the Silver Streaks faced too much of an uphill climb.
“This is the first time in the last couple of weeks where maybe the other team beat us instead of us kind of giving the game away,” he said.