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.