By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 20, 2015 2:00 am
QUINCY — With three minutes elapsed in the third quarter Saturday night, the Quincy High School boys basketball team had failed to gain the separation it was accustomed to getting.
It turns out the Blue Devils needed just a little longer to make that happen.
An 8-0 run by Quincy Notre Dame had whittled QHS’s eight-point halftime lead to 40-37 midway through the quarter, but the Blue Devils answered with a 12-0 burst of their own, highlighted by three Aaron Shoot 3-pointers. From there, QHS never let its lead dip below five points in earning a 64-56 victory at the Pit.
“That’s bragging rights,” QHS senior point guard Mike Dade said. “To come to a hostile place, a place that’s tough to win, we knew we were going to have to battle. It means a lot to come through and stay composed.”
Typically, it had been the Blue Devils’ opponent trying to do that in the face of extreme pressure.
Through the first eight games, QHS (8-1) had outscored each opponent by an average of six points over the first three minutes of the third quarter. Although the Blue Devils scored on three of their first four possessions of the second half, the Raiders scored on five straight trips, owning a 10-7 edge at that point.
Carter Cramsey’s drive from the right wing for a layin with four minutes to go pulled QND (5-3) within three.
“We knew they were a third-quarter team, and I feel we are a third-quarter team,” QND coach Kevin Meyer said. “Which one was going to give there and which one was going to have to take?”
Shoot answered Cramsey’s drive with a 3-pointer 15 seconds later, and after QHS’s Parker Bland drew a charging foul on Tanner Stuckman, Shoot knocked down his second trey. Bland finished a pass from Shoot with a bank shot after a QND turnover, and then the sophomore guard converted another turnover into third 3-pointer to make it a 51-37 advantage.
“After the first couple went in, I was like, ‘I’m going to shoot the ball when I get it,'” said Shoot, who went 6 of 6 from the field and scored 17 points with five assists.
Each of his 3-pointers felt like a dagger to the Raiders.
“It’s heartbreaking when you get on a little run and then he hits a three,” QND junior forward Jacob Mayfield said.
It wasn’t the only time the Blue Devils stemmed the tide with a key basket.
A 7-2 spurt by QND that tied the game at 9 in the first quarter was answered by a 7-0 run from QHS. The Raiders cut the deficit to two twice in the second quarter, only to see the Blue Devils come up with Jake Jobe’s three-point play to stall the first one and Deven Smith’s first basket of the season to end the second run.
“You think you’re getting in there, getting closer and closer, and then they hit a big three or a big shot,” said Mayfield, who led QND with 19 points. “It sinks you.”
Worse yet for the Raiders, the Blue Devils made crucial plays to finish each of the first two quarters.
Dade was fouled in the act of shooting with 3.9 seconds left in the first quarter and split his free throws. When he missed the second, QHS guard Cameron Gay outhustled the Raiders to tip the rebound, which allowed Dade to grab it coming down the lane and finish a layup for a three-point play at the buzzer.
An offensive rebound on the final possession of the second quarter allowed the Blue Devils to extend the lead again. This time, Shoot beat the QND defense off the dribble, charging down the middle of the lane for a basket with two seconds left and a 33-25 edge.
“The buzzer goes off and you’re shaking your head like, ‘What just happened?'” Meyer said.
The Blue Devils were feeling the same way when they proceeded to turn the ball over on six straight possessions in the second half, allowing the Raiders to trim a 15-point deficit to 10 on Mayfield’s baseline drive with 5:51 to go in regulation.
Another led to QND’s Aubrey Reis hitting a 3-pointer from the right corner with 57 seconds left that cut the QHS lead to 58-53.
The Blue Devils turned the ball over 12 times in the second half and 18 times overall, but they didn’t turn the ball over on their final five possessions and made 6 of 10 free throws to salt away the victory. They also forced turnovers on QND’s final two possessions.
“We almost got too aggressive and lost our heads a little bit,” Shoot said. “We got it back together and settled down. We were still aggressive, but in more of a smart way.”
That showed in the most critical moments as the Blue Devils never gave up the lead. They’ve trailed only 15 seconds total in their eight victories.
“That shows that we’re growing and executing when we need to,” QHS coach Andy Douglas said.
To do it in a rivalry game means just a little more.
“It keeps us competitive and builds confidence,” QHS junior forward Garrett Gadeke said. “That’s something special.”