By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
QUINCY — Andy Douglas believes the opportunities the Quincy High School boys basketball team squandered this weekend will be beneficial in the long run.
The Blue Devils are adamant it will be sooner than that.
Trailing Waukegan by a point with 7.9 seconds remaining in regulation Saturday night, Quincy had to go the length of the floor for a potential game-winning basket.
However, junior point guard Lucas Reis fumbled the ball in the backcourt and was forced to heave a shot from a step inside the midcourt stripe, banging it off the backboard and the front of the rim as the Blue Devils suffered a 62-61 loss in the 48th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament at Blue Devil Gym.
“I know his head was down, but I told him, ‘You have to look at it like this: You’ve never been a point guard at the varsity level,'” Douglas said. “He’d never been in that situation before. Aaron Shoot had to learn. Lincoln Elbe had to learn. Mike Dade had to learn.
“I told him, ‘You’re going to have to learn, but keep your head up and compete.’ He needs to know the coaches and the players have faith in him.”
He has to believe his teammates when they say things will get better.
The Blue Devils are 0-3 for only the second time in program history. It’s the first time they’ve failed to win a game in the Thanksgiving Tournament. This also was one of the tougher tourney fields in recent memory with Waukegan, Providence St. Mel and St. Louis Christian each going 2-1.
St. Mel won the tournament championship based on free-throw percentage.
The improvements the Blue Devils made from one night to the next should have them ready to face Moline, another team with high aspirations and plenty of preseason acclaim, in next Friday’s Western Big Six Conference opener.
“(QHS athletic director Scott Douglas) was talking with our assistant coaches and was saying we’re more ready for Moline than we were last year or two years ago because of how strong the field for the tournament was,” senior guard Jirehl Brock said. “I believe that’s right.”
Maybe so, but the Blue Devils must be more consistent to topple a top team.
Quincy scored on six straight possessions in the first quarter — the highlight being an alley-oop dunk by Brock — to build an 18-6 lead. Despite a seven-point run by Waukegan, the lead was still 10 after the Blue Devils scored on the first two possessions of the second quarter.
That’s when the offensive malaise began. The Blue Devils went seven possessions without scoring and led only 30-27 at halftime.
The same thing happened in the third quarter. After scoring on the first two possessions, the Blue Devils had seven straight empty trips. The Bulldogs grabbed a 39-35 lead at that point, and the Blue Devils led for only 12 seconds thereafter.
“We have to be a little more comfortable in what we’re doing,” said Andy Douglas, who got 16 points from freshman Jeremiah Talton and 14 points from junior Adonte Crider. “Right now, our execution is not anywhere near where it needs to be. Part of that is knowing the plays and knowing the sets. We have to be better listeners and better learners.”
They have to better in tight situations, too.
After Jaylin Cunningham split a pair of free throws with 1:30 to play to give the Bulldogs a 61-59 lead, the Blue Devils got Jaeden Smith open for a 3-point attempt at the top of the key that caromed long. Crider grabbed the offensive rebound, but the Blue Devils turned the ball over before getting another shot.
Another free throw by Waukegan made it a three-point game before Reis drove to the basket for a layup with 16.2 seconds remaining. The Blue Devils couldn’t get a steal on the inbounds pass and fouled Andre White Jr., who missed two free throws with 10 seconds to play.
It gave the Blue Devils one final chance that slipped away.
“It’s going to take some time for us to find our way,” Brock said. “Once we get to our full potential, we’ll be really good.”
48th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament
Waukegan 62, Quincy High School 61