By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
QUINCY — A loss Friday night wasn’t going to change what the Quincy High School boys basketball team had accomplished.
A victory meant a legacy.
Aaron Shoot wanted that as much as anyone.
The senior point guard scored the seventh-ranked Blue Devils’ final 16 points of the fourth quarter, helping stave off pesky Galesburg with a 51-41 victory in the Western Big Six Conference finale at Blue Devil Gym.
“I kind of got tired of the game being that close,” Shoot said. “I wanted to do everything within my power to kind of separate, whether that meant creating for my teammates or creating for myself.”
He created a historic moment as well.
The Blue Devils finish the WB6 slate with a 9-1 record, becoming the first of Quincy’s 23 conference championship teams to lose the league opener and then win nine straight games. The Blue Devils also finish the regular season at 21-4, the best record going into the postseason since the 1999-2000 team went 21-4 before finishing 25-5.
“This is something I’ve been dreaming about coming to every game since I was a little kid,” senior forward Collin Tenhouse said. “It’s awesome.”
Tenhouse played a critical role in helping the Blue Devils gain necessary separation.
After the Silver Streaks’ Cornell Dotson made two free throws with 4:28 to play and cut the deficit to 38-37, Tenhouse thwarted the next two Galesburg possessions. He picked up a steal off a Jirehl Brock deflection and got the ball into the hands of Shoot, who beat Silver Streaks guard Nicholas Fields off the dribble and scored on a drive down the right side of the lane.
Another deflection in the backcourt ended up as a Tenhouse steal, and he fed Shoot for an uncontested layup and a 44-37 lead that forced Galesburg coach Mike Reynolds to call a timeout with 3:37 to play.
“At that point, I just took it all in,” said Tenhouse, who had four steals, three assists and two rebounds. “The crowd was all standing. It was just a great feeling.”
His teammates sensed it, too.
“That was that moment where you can kind of sit back, relax, soak it all in and take it all in,” Shoot said.
And Shoot did the rest. After Galesburg (21-10, 5-5 WB6) cut the deficit to three, Shoot scored on a backdoor layup off a Brock feed from the high post. He scored through contact of a drive to the basket and completed the three-point play.
He capped it with two free throws with 25 seconds left and walked off the floor with the rest of the seniors to thunderous applause.
Shoot finished with 23 points and six assists, making 5 of 5 shots from the field and 6 of 6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter.
“When you have a guy like Shoot, who is the best player in the league, at least the guy who has played the best in my opinion and our coaches’ opinions, you can control the ball,” Reynolds said. “When you can control the ball, you can control the game. That’s a great feeling as a coach.”
Quincy coach Andy Douglas relishes it.
“He’s one of Quincy’s best point guards,” he said. “It’s one of those things where you are lucky to have him. You can put the ball in his hands, and he does everything.”
The Blue Devils needed the tide turned.
Quincy committed 11 turnovers and shot just 28.6 percent in the first half but was able to squeeze out a 22-20 lead as Jaeden Smith hit consecutive 3-pointers to erase a six-point deficit. Jacob Ary’s 3-pointer from the right corner in the final minute of the half gave the Blue Devils the lead.
They trailed only once in the second half — 26-25 with 2:45 to go in the third quarter — before Brock and Smith hit back-to-back 3-pointers for separation.
“At one point, Jaeden was like, ‘We’ve got you, Coach. We’ve got you,'” Douglas said. “When they needed to make plays, they came up big and they made them.”
It was needed. Leaving a legacy required it.