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By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
GRANITE CITY, Ill. — One by one, the Quincy High School boys basketball players emerged from the locker room.
They pulled their hoodies over their heads. They buried their blurry-eyed faces in the embrace of loved ones. They somberly headed to the bus for the final road home.
A season filled with so much promise was over, brought to an abrupt halt by an offense that had no rhythm and a defense victimized by a barrage of 3-pointers.
“Hurt and shock,” junior guard Aaron Shoot said after seventh-seeded Alton eliminated fourth-seeded Quincy from the Class 4A Granite City Regional with a 53-43 victory in Wednesday’s semifinals at Memorial Gym. “That’s all it is. Heartbreak when there’s no more games for those guys, those seniors.”
The inability to finish made it all the more frustrating.
The Blue Devils shot just 35.3 percent from the field and 13.3 percent from 3-point range, forcing them to play catch-up the final three quarters.
Quincy (20-6) trailed 21-19 at halftime after making 8 of 26 shots from the field (30.8 percent) with eight misses within 5 feet of the basket.
“We executed, and we got the ball inside,” said senior forward Parker Bland, who made 7 of 19 shots from the field and scored a team-high 14 points. “Coach said it at halftime that the shots weren’t falling in the first half and hopefully they’d start falling in the second half.
“They didn’t fall either.”
Alton took advantage. The Redbirds, who will face top-seeded and top-ranked Edwardsville in Friday’s regional championship, used back-to-back 3-pointers to open the fourth quarter to extend its lead to 40-32 before Shoot hit the second of two second-half 3-pointers to pull the Blue Devils within 40-35 with 5:08 to play.
However, Quincy made just three of its final 10 shots and couldn’t convert defensive stops into points.
“Sometimes you have nights where you can’t get anything to go,” Shoot said. “The best teams are able to play through those nights and still get a win. We can’t make excuses. We just didn’t make enough shots.”
Alton (16-11) did.
With Maurice Edwards and Dereaun Clay in foul trouble, Redbirds guard Kevin Caldwell picked up the slack. He made five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds as Alton shot 47 percent from the field.
Alton point guard Ty’ohn Trimble had 10 points on 4-of-4 shooting as the Redbirds’ backcourt outscored the Blue Devils’ three guards 34-13.
“We knew we’d have to play well against Quincy’s bigs,” Alton coach Eric Smith said. “We thought we’d be OK with the guards because we have three kids with a lot of experience, and I think those kids played pretty well.”
They made the Blue Devils pay for not contesting their shots. The Redbirds made 9 of 21 from 3-point range.
Quincy allowed 20 3-pointers in losing its final two games of the year.
“It’s disappointing to not see us do the next thing,” QHS coach Andy Douglas said. “We got 90 percent of the play made, but then we dropped 5 percent. We got to closeout, but instead of having our hands up at the shooters, we had our hands down or at their stomach.
“When you’ve got guys who are shooting it well and are that hot, it’s little things like those that keep you from being successful.”
It’s what allowed Alton to end Quincy’s season for a second straight year.
By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
QUINCY — The team that turned the Western Big Six Conference title chase from a runaway into a dogfight finished its job as the ultimate spoiler.
It also ruined a celebration that began a little too soon.
The Moline boys basketball team made 11 3-pointers and closed Friday night’s game on a 9-2 run, upending Quincy High School 45-41 at Blue Devil Gym and costing the Blue Devils an outright WB6 championship.
“Upset, frustrated, probably shocked a little bit,” QHS coach Andy Douglas said of the postgame locker room atmosphere.
It was the most distraught locker room the Blue Devils have experienced
“To say the least,” Quincy senior forward Parker Bland said.
That’s because so much was at stake.
The Blue Devils (20-5, 7-3 WB6) saw a 28-game home winning streak snapped and missed out on going undefeated at home in back-to-back seasons for the first time since the 1980-81 and 1981-82 seasons. They also had the opportunity for the program’s 12th outright WB6 title — Quincy and Rock Island share the record with 11 — but were forced to settle for a three-way tie with Rock Island and United Township.
It is the third time in WB6 history three teams shared the title and the second time the league champion finished with three losses.
Quincy had secured at least a tie for the title going into Friday’s game, and “2017” had already been painted on the north wall of Blue Devil Gym along with the years of the other 21 conference titles.
It wasn’t inaccurate, but celebrating it might have been a little premature.
“Our emotions weren’t really with us tonight,” said Bland, who led Quincy with 12 points. “They were kind of all over, scattered around. I’m not one to make excuses. We should have come out here and battled and played like we know how to and we just didn’t.”
It allowed Moline (19-8, 6-4 WB6) to get off to a roaring start.
Deonte Billups hit a 3-pointer from the left corner on the Maroons’ opening possession and they proceeded to hit four more treys in the first quarter in building an 18-13 lead.
“We really weren’t with it tonight,” Bland said. “We came out with kind of a slow tempo. We didn’t come out like we usually come out.”
The Blue Devils gained some traction in the second quarter and went into halftime down only 25-24. A 7-0 run by Quincy to begin the third quarter changed the tempo as Moline failed to score on its first seven possessions of the second half.
But back-to-back 3-pointers by Billups and Jake Pittington erased the Blue Devils’ six-point advantage in just 29 seconds.
“We hung together and had some good possessions,” said Moline coach Sean Taylor, who coached Quincy from 2003-2014 and was on the opposing sideline for the second time since being fired. “We didn’t get rattled.”
The teams traded the lead four times with two ties over an eight-minute span before Moline took control on Nathan Hurt’s 3-pointer with 2:12 remaining. Hurt also made two free throws with 15.7 seconds remaining and finished with 16 points.
“He made some shots and controlled it,” Taylor said. “Defensively, he was really good all night.”
Hurt’s 3-pointer was the dagger.
“It went so quick,” Douglas said. “It’s a tie game with 2 minutes, 40 seconds or whatever was left, and then just like that it changes. When you’re playing a team that is as hot as they were this game, it can change just like that. We didn’t make enough plays to combat that.”
Quincy didn’t make a field goal the final 4:30 and missed its final five shots. The Blue Devils shot just 38.1 percent from the field and were 3 of 12 from 3-point range.
“The energy wasn’t there,” Douglas said. “The focus wasn’t there.”
It allowed Moline to win at Blue Devil Gym for the first time since the 2012-13 season.
“I hope they understand how difficult it is to win down here,” Taylor said. “It’s tougher to do against a really, really good team that has strength and quickness and shooting. I don’t know if we realize how good of a win that is.”
By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
QUINCY — Parker Bland didn’t know why Sean Taylor would be calling him into the coach’s office.
“My nerves immediately perked up,” Bland said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
What Taylor, the former Quincy High School boys basketball coach, had in mind was something unique and rare. Bland, a freshman during the 2013-14 season, was being moved up to the varsity and told he would start in the second game of the QHS Thanksgiving Tournament against Algonquin Jacobs.
“There were butterflies,” Bland said. “It was an indescribable feeling.”
It was unforgettable, too. Bland scored four points and grabbed three rebounds as the Blue Devils earned a 44-41 victory over Jacobs.
“That’s something that you can’t forget,” Bland said. “Having all the support from the seniors at that time, having support from friends, it was so incredible.”
Fast forward to today and Bland is getting prepared to play his final game at home when the Blue Devils play host to Moline on Friday night. Quincy has an opportunity to win the Western Big Six Conference championship outright and extend its home winning streak to 29 consecutive games, two milestones extremely important to Bland and his fellow seniors.
“To know the tradition behind the program, it’s not something you take for granted,” Bland said. “When you sit down and think about it, it’s incredible.”
So is the personal milestone Bland is nearing.
The 6-foot-4 forward heads into the final regular season game with 974 career points and could become the 21st player in program history to reach the 1,000-point plateau. Eighteen of the 20 members of the exclusive club are inducted into the QHS Hall of Fame, and 2010 graduate Zach Forbes isn’t eligible yet.
Bland, who is averaging 15.8 points per game this season, will reach 1,000 points if he hits his average in the next two games.
“It’s mind-blowing to know I’m even in that position,” Bland said. “For that to happen, it would be a miracle. It’s something I’ve thought about since Day 1, but you can’t overthink it. You can’t worry about it. If it comes, you’re blessed.
“I still take a step back and make sure I don’t take anything lightly. You treasure every moment.”
That includes the sweat equity he’s earned.
Bland’s commitment to improving has resulted in developing a complete game. He was 6 of 22 from 3-point range for his career, but this season, he’s made 19 3-pointers and is shooting 44.2 percent from beyond the arc.
“He’s impacting the game in a variety of ways,” QHS coach Andy Douglas said. “He’s not just going at the basket.”
That’s because Douglas and the coaching pushed him to be a more complete player.
“Coach said going into my junior year that I was going to have to develop a right hand and develop a mid-range jumper,” Bland said. “I worked on that a lot. I started to get into that routine my junior year, but it didn’t hit me how important it was until after my junior year.
“That’s when he got me into the weight room and got me into the gym. He had me focusing on my ball-handling and my perimeter game.”
It wasn’t always easy, but Bland developed the maturity and leadership is takes to impact the game in all facets.
“He brings it in practice, which the kids see every day,” Douglas said. “Coming in every single practice ready to work means so much.”
It was the only way to get better.
“The coaches have allowed me to make mistakes, but those mistakes have improved my game, improved my basketball IQ and improved my decisions on and off the court,” Bland said.
It’s caught the eye of college coaches.
Bland has been in contact with coaches from Quincy University, Hanniba-LaGrange University, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and the University of Sioux Falls and plans to visit those schools once his season ends.
“With his size, his athleticism and his quickness, he has the ability to play at the next level,” Douglas said.
Everything that has happened the last four years will have Bland well prepared for whatever is to come.
“Even now, and you can ask my teammates about this, I get nervous before the big games come up,” Bland said. “But having that experience of having gone through them definitely helps. It allows me to help settle my teammates who don’t have that experience.
“How I come out and how I react is important. How I handle things is important.”
This Friday we will celebrate the careers of our seniors Zach Aschemann, Garrett Gadeke, Logan Brunenn, Parker Bland, Deven Smith and Garrett Scott. These guys have been great leaders for our program and are leaving a lasting legacy for future Blue Devil basketball players. Help us celebrate before we take on Moline!
By Mat Mikesell Herald-Whig
QUINCY — The Quincy High School boys basketball team expects its defense to help it win games.
Saturday night, the offense did its part, too.
Quincy shot 52.3 percent from the floor to hand Class 4A No. 8 Geneva its second straight loss in a 63-45 victory at Blue Devil Gym. The victory was Quincy’s 28th straight at home, and the Blue Devils can extend that streak in next Friday’s game against Moline along with winning an outright Western Big Six Conference championship.
“We always talk about energy on the defensive side and that’s an emphasis in this program,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “But tonight we were energetic on offense. We were able to get the ball inside and crash the glass.
“Parker Bland was huge for us tonight with those offensive rebounds.”
Bland needed just five minutes to show the Vikings (26-2) he was going to control the basket area.
The Quincy senior forward corralled four offensive boards in the opening quarter, and he turned each into a putback. He scored 10 points in the first eight minutes to give Quincy (20-4) a 20-8 lead.
“We just knew we had to be more physical than them,” Bland said. “I definitely feel like we were able to do that.”
The Blue Devils made that an emphasis knowing the Vikings lost their first game of the season — a 62-20 overtime setback on Friday to St. Charles North — and could come into Quincy with more fire.
“We kind of wished we could have handed the first loss here,” Bland said. “Being able to jump on them early got them down on themselves and flustered. That helped to our benefit.”
Bland and sophomore guard Jaeden Smith combined for 20 of Quincy’s first 22 points. Smith scored the Blue Devils’ first six points on a pair of 3-pointers well beyond the arc.
“They were giving it to me so I took it,” Smith said. “My shot’s been on the last couple weeks. It’s never felt better.”
Bland didn’t attempt a shot in the second quarter, but made his first five shots of the third quarter to help Quincy build a 44-23 advantage with 4:07 remaining. He finished with a game-high 26 points and grabbed eight rebounds, five offensive.
Smith added 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range and three assists.
“Bland just jumped up, grabbed it and put it right back in,” Geneva coach Phil Ralston said.
Quincy led by double digits for the entire second half and shot 59 percent in the second half. Meanwhile, the Blue Devils held the Vikings to 37.5 percent shooting in the second half and 39 percent for the game.
“The word I’d use is efficient,” Douglas said. “We were efficient on offense and defense tonight.”
Thank you to all of the teachers who have impacted the lives of our student/athletes. We were excited to honor you before the game. To ALL of our districts educators… YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
The sophomore guard is playing like a seasoned veteran, and it’s benefitting the Quincy High School boys basketball team in a significant way.
Saturday night, Smith made three 3-pointers in a five-possession span of the second quarter, turning a three-point deficit into a three-point lead and helping the Blue Devils pick up a 57-48 victory at Blue Devil Gym. It is the Blue Devils’ 27th straight home victory and the third straight game Smith has scored in double digits as he finished with 19 points.
“My teammates always keep me going,” Smith said. “They’re always like, ‘Keep shooting’ when I’m in a slump. I was in a slump at the beginning of the season, but I’m feeling great now because all my teammates pick me up every game.”
Jacksonville made two of its first three 3-point attempts and bolted to an 8-2 lead, but Parker Bland buried a 14-footer along right baseline and Smith knocked down a 3-pointer from the left wing to change the tide. Smith’s barrage in the second quarter gave Quincy all the momentum.
But Quincy coach Andy Douglas didn’t want the game to evolv into a 3-point shooting contest.
“That’s something we’re good at,” Douglas said. “But we’re great at defense.”
Smith had a hand in helping the Blue Devils get defensive. The Crimsons went 6 of 24 from the field in the second half and 3 of 16 from 3-point range as the Blue Devils pushed the lead to as many as 11 points in the third quarter.
After Jacksonville trimmed the lead to four, Smith buried another 3-pointer to hold the Crimsons at bay.
“He was great again tonight,” Douglas said. “Offensively, he was great for us. Defensively, he did a great job of running at guys. You’re seeing the confidence build game-by-game for a lot of guys, but it really sticks out with him.”
A five-point possession midway through the second quarter played a major role in Quincy keeping the lead.
Off a missed running jumper by Bland, Jacksonville forward Brandon McCombs cleared the defensive rebound. However, Quincy’s Garrett Gadeke reached in and forced a jump ball call. McCombs, the 6-foot-7 senior who has signed to play at NCAA Division II Lewis University, was hit with a technical foul for questioning the call. Crimsons coach Cliff Cameron went onto the floor to argue the cal and was slapped with a technical foul as well.
Quincy guard Aaron Shoot made 3 of 4 free throws, and the Blue Devils finished the possession with Gadeke’s layin to take a 32-25 lead.
The Blue Devils’ lead never dipped below five points again.
Coming off Friday night’s hard-fought 41-38 victory over United Township that gave the Blue Devils a chance at a Western Big Six Conference championship, there was a legitimate concern they might not have the legs to play the style of defense they want.
That might have been the case for better than a quarter Saturday night, but Quincy refused to let fatigue bother it.
“These games are huge to build that toughness you’re going to need when we go into postseason play,” Douglas said. “We needed this for a lot of reasons. Regional seeds come out this week, and it gives us a chance to be up at the top. We’ll see where we fall, but we’ve done our job. We’ve continued to win at home and protect our house. It was a big weekend for us.”
At 18-4, the Blue Devils have a chance for one of the top four seeds in one of the two sub-sectionals of the Class 4A Ottawa Sectional. Belleville East and Granite City will be the regional hosts, with Edwardsville and East St. Louis expected to be the top seeds at those regionals.
The Illinois High School Association will release the seeds Thursday.
By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
QUINCY — Not quite 48 hours after Garrett Gadeke missed the shot he couldn’t forget, a newspaper headline trumpeted his redemption.
That didn’t actually happen until Friday night.
Eight weeks after Gadeke’s last-second shot rolled off the rim and saddled the Quincy High School boys basketball team with a 45-43 loss at United Township, the senior forward was a central figure in the Blue Devils getting back in the Western Big Six Conference championship chase.
Gadeke scored a team-high 15 points and grabbed seven rebounds, including two defensive boards in the final minute of regulation that enable the Blue Devils to grab a 41-38 victory over the Panthers at Blue Devil Gym.
“After that first loss, and the fashion in which we lost it, I really hung my head on the bus ride home,” Gadeke said. “It’s a moment where you feel you let your teammates down, you let your coaches down, and in a sense, your community and your school. We want to bring home a Western Big Six title so badly, and the fact I had a part in taking a step back instead of a step forward, it really makes you think.
“To come out here tonight and play aggressive, play smart and play strong, it meant everything.”
Now, all the Blue Devils have to do is win their final two WB6 games to do no worse than tie for the title.
Quincy (17-4, 6-2 WB6) still trails United Township (22-5, 7-2 WB6) by a half-game, and the Panthers can wrap up their share of the title by beating Rock Island next week. But with victories over Galesburg and Moline, the Blue Devils would win their league-record 22nd championship.
“This was just another step toward our goal,” QHS sophomore guard Jirehl Brock said. “We have to keep moving forward.”
Gadeke knows just how important that is.
The loss in December at the Panther Den ended the Blue Devils’ seven-game winning streak. Although Quincy came back the next night to beat Quincy Notre Dame 68-50 as Gadeke had 15 points and 10 rebounds, he continued to play with a chip on his shoulder because of that one miss.
That won’t change. He has his redemption, but he wants a WB6 title just as badly as anyone else.
“It’s awesome to watch that kid grow and develop,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “He was a monster tonight. The biggest thing, though, was being tough enough to more forward from a game like he had earlier this season and not have it be in the back of his mind. That shows his maturity and leadership.”