By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
QUINCY — Despite all the Quincy High School boys basketball team has accomplished this season, there seems to be a prevailing thought it is a longshot to advance past the Class 4A Pekin Sectional.
The Blue Devils don’t mind hearing that. They relish the chance to prove doubters wrong yet again.
When the Class of 2018 was in eighth grade, Quincy was seeded seventh in the Class 8-4A regional hosted by Jacksonville Turner. By the end of that week, the Quincy eighth graders had pulled off three upsets, including one in overtime, and won a regional title.
Another upset in the sectional — the Blue Devils beat a Mount Zion team that was 17-5 — meant a state tournament berth. So a team that began the postseason with an 8-7 record was one of eight teams left standing.
It’s a magical run none of those players have ever forgotten.
“Along with just being a cool thing to say you made it to state, it gives you that thought anything is possible,” Quincy senior point guard Aaron Shoot said. “It gives you the encouragement it can be done. No one thought we were going to do it in eighth grade. No one thinks we’re going to do it now. So it can be done.”
Making that happen begins Tuesday.
Quincy (21-4) is seeded second in its sub-sectional behind Belleville West (25-2) and will be the top-seeded team in the Quincy Regional. The Blue Devils will face either sixth-seeded Collinsville (16-13) or 10th-seeded Springfield (10-17) at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the regional semifinals at Blue Devil Gym.
Third-seeded Alton (15-11) and fifth-seeded Chatham Glenwood (19-11) will meet in the other semifinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday. The championship will be played at 7 p.m. Friday.
The Blue Devils expect to be there.
“We still have things to prove,” senior Ben Amos said. “I still have things to prove. A lot of people on our team still have things to prove. That way we remain motivated every day.”
Quincy hasn’t won a regional championship since 2009, has lost to Alton in the regional each of the past two years and hasn’t made a state tournament appearance since 1998. The last time the Blue Devils played in a super-sectional (2000) was the year the seniors were born.
The Blue Devils believe they’re due for postseason success.
“Everyone wants to keep this season alive as long as possible,” senior Jacob Ary said. “We believe we can do something special again.”
In many ways, they already have.
The Blue Devils won their 23rd Western Big Six Conference championship, reached the 20-victory plateau for the 52nd time in program history and were ranked seventh last week in the Class 4A state poll — the highest ranking since the 1991-92 team reached No. 3 in the 16-team Class AA poll.
More important, at least in Douglas’ mind, is that his team has competed. Quincy has won 18 of its last 20 games, losing in overtime to Lincoln and falling by three points in regulation to Webster Groves, the No. 4-ranked team in Missouri Class 5.
“One of the special things about this team is its mentality,” Douglas said. “It doesn’t matter who they see on the floor, they think they have a chance to win. It’s a great mentality to have. It’s held itself true throughout this season. There’s definitely an opportunity for us to make a run.”
They already have proven they’re capable of that.
“It’s always been in the back of our minds,” Shoot said. “We’ve always been proud of the fact we made it to state in eighth grade. Some people see that and think, ‘Oh, it was kind of a fluke.’ We’ve always had something different about us. We work well together, and we’re so close. That’s really what separates us from years past.”
Class 4A Quincy Regional
At Blue Devil Gym
No. 6 Collinsville (16-13) vs. No. 10 Springfield (10-17), 7 p.m.
No. 2 Quincy (21-4) vs. Collinsville-Springfield winner, 7 p.m.
No. 3 Alton (15-12) vs. No. 5 Chatham Glenwood (19-11), 7 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.