By JEFF WENDLAND
Special to The Herald-Whig
MOLINE — There is a reason the Moline Maroons are in the midst of a 12-game winning streak and leading the Western Big 6 Conference by two games.
They know how to making winning plays.
“We know how to stay composed late in games and find a way to win,” Moline senior Deonte Billups said after the Maroons held off Quincy 67-63 on Friday night at Wharton Field House. “We do it together as a team.”
With 6:13 left in the game, the Maroons (19-2, 7-0 WB6) led the Blue Devils (7-10, 2-3) 50-42. Quincy whittled the lead down to 55-53 when the big plays started coming.
º Brody Harding, who had missed six of seven 3-pointers at the time, buried a triple from the top of the key.
º After Quincy cut the lead to 58-55, Drew Wiemers knocked down a three from the wing to make it a six-point game.
º After a three-point play by Quincy’s Jirehl Brock, Wiemers got free on a two-on-one break, drew a defender his way and made a beautiful pass to Treyon Lamphier for a layup to make it 63-58.
º Finally, Billups hit two key free throws with 18 seconds left with the Maroons leading by just one point.
“I’m proud of our guys. They never stopped battling,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “If a couple of calls go the other way or we make a couple of big shots, this could have been a different outcome.”
One of those key times came late in the third quarter with the Blue Devils trailing by four points. Jaeden Smith had a great look at a 3-pointer but missed. The Devils got an offensive rebound, and Jeremiah Talton had an open three that wouldn’t go down. Another offensive rebound wound up in the hands of Smith, and another three was just off the mark.
“You look at it and if one of those 3s go down, we are within one and plenty of time left,” Douglas said. “Then, the other way, they come up with two huge shots by Harding and Wiemers that really hurt. What’s bad about those shots is we left both of them wide open.”
The two threes by Moline in the closing minutes came on a night when it made just seven of 24 3-point shots.
“We went inside to start the second half, and that opens up the inside/outside threat,” Moline coach Sean Taylor said. “Brody hit the one from up top and Drew hit the one from the wing because Quincy had to defend the inside.
“This game is what we have been doing the last four or five games where we are not as consistent as we want to be. We need to have better offensive and defensive possessions with the lead.”
That inside presence in the second half was huge.
After Moline build a double-digit lead in the early stages of the second quarter, Quincy got back within four at the half.
Billups (29 points, 14 rebounds and three assists) took over inside in the third quarter and dominated the paint. Wiemers (19 points, nine rebounds) followed suit with solid inside presence.
“Our rebounding was horrible, I thought,” Douglas said. “We would get a nice defensive stop, and they would get the rebound and score. Billups is so good in the lane at getting to the offensive glass and keeping the ball alive. You just can’t give up second-chance points like that. We made it way too easy for him to get in the paint.”
Smith led four Blue Devils in double figures with 17 points. Brock added 12, Talton 11 and Adonte Crider 10. Lucas Reis contributed nine points, six rebounds and seven assists.
“Lucas was adamant that he wanted the ball and took care of it,” Douglas said. “He drove to the basket when it was there, and when we were on the break, he did a great job of dishing it out for baskets or open shots.
“Our young guys are really growing up fast. They are growing mentally tougher and learning to play in those tough minutes.”
Moline 67, Quincy 63