Smith, Blue Devils get in perfect rhythm

 

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — Jaeden Smith is confident enough in his shooting touch that he never feels like he is forcing shots from the perimeter.

But there are moments he admits he doesn’t feel fully in rhythm.

“That’s when I’m missing shots,” Smith said. “It’s like I’m just throwing it up there.”

So what did Friday feel like?

“Like I was in rhythm,” Smith said.

Because he felt good, so did the Quincy High School boys basketball team. The Blue Devils won a pair of games in the 35th annual Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic, beating Oakville 62-39 and Belleville Althoff 47-26 to reach the consolation championship game Saturday against Belleville East.

Smith scored a game-high 25 points against the Tigers, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range. He followed it up with 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range against the Crusaders in what is unquestionably his best shooting day of the season.

“When I shoot it in rhythm, I find myself making it even more,” Smith said. “All day long, I found myself shooting really well because I was in rhythm with my shot.”

That was despite missing his first 3-point attempt against Oakville.

Smith responded by making his next three shots and scoring Quincy’s final eight points of the first quarter to give the Blue Devils a 20-10. He had 19 points at halftime, and then went 6 of 6 from the free-throw line in the second half to help salt away a victory.

“When he’s in rhythm, he’s the best shooter on the floor,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said.

Smith never lost his rhythm because he never tried to do too much.

“He was patient all the way throughout,” Douglas said. “Our guys did a great job all day long of getting him the ball in spots he could finish, and he was able to finish them off.”

That started with the first play against Althoff.

The Blue Devils won the tip and ran a play to get Smith the ball at the top of the key. When he came off a screen and caught the pass, he was wide open and made the shot that kickstarted an onslaught.

“Since I was so wide open, I had to make it,” Smith said with a smile.

That’s been a common refrain.

Smith heads into Saturday’s game against Belleville East with 124 career 3-pointers, just three shy of matching Kyle Cartmill’s career record.

“Most of the time when he shoots it, I know I don’t have to go after a rebound,” Brock said. “It takes a lot of pressure off me and a lot of pressure off us. After he shoots, we can just get back and get set defensively and press.

“When he’s on, he’s definitely on. That’s fun to see.”