By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
QUINCY — The first shot calmed the nerves. The next lifted the worry.
After that, the Quincy High School boys basketball players could think about playing for a regional championship.
Before that, those prospects seemed a little more dicey.
Collinsville limited Quincy to just four points in the third quarter of Tuesday night’s Class 4A Quincy Regional semifinal and trailed by only five points before Shoot buried a 3-pointer from the right corner on the Blue Devils’ first possession of the fourth quarter.
Two possessions later, Jacob Ary nailed a 3-pointer from the left wing to push the lead back to double digits as the Blue Devils finished off a 51-37 victory at Blue Devil Gym.
“When I hit that three, it was kind of a sigh of relief,” said Shoot, the senior point guard who scored 11 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter. “And Jacob has a way about him where he just doesn’t stay cold. He’s a good enough shooter, even if he’s 0 for 3 or 0 for 4, you think that next one is?going in.
“And in that spot, I had the utmost confidence he was going to make it. He knocked it down and we could kind of breath again and relax.”
The Blue Devils (22-4) won’t relax for long.
Quincy, ranked sixth in Class 4A and seeded second in the sub-sectional, will have two days to prepare to face either third-seeded Alton or fifth-seeded Chatham Glenwood at 7 p.m. Friday in the regional championship.
The Redbirds (15-12) and Titans (19-11) meet in the second semifinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
“We have to get in, get some shots up, stay loose and go over some of the things from tonight that we didn’t do well,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas. “We have to iron those things out.”
Specifically, the Blue Devils have to face changing defenses with better poise.
A 15-2 run to close the first half put Quincy in control with a 31-16 lead. The Blue Devils feasted on the Kahoks’ inability to control the ball, turning six turnovers into 12 points during that stretch.
“After that, coming back after halftime, we really just wanted to step on their necks,” Shoot said.
But the Kahoks (17-14) switched from their typical man-to-man defense to a 2-3 zone and threw the Blue Devils off. They turned the ball over on two of the first three possessions of the second half — Quincy had two turnovers total in the first half — and failed to score the first seven possessions.
The drought lasted 4 minutes, 55 seconds and allowed the Kahoks to pull within 31-25.
“They did a good job in it,” Douglas said. “They clogged up the middle and didn’t allow much inside. It didn’t help that we played impatient.”
Quincy committed six turnovers in the third quarter and got outscored 13-4.
“It all comes down to how we handled the ball in that quarter,” said Ary, a senior shooting guard. “We didn’t have very many offensive possessions, and when they get turnovers, they can score and that’s what made that quarter so bad. If we held onto the ball, we would have had more possessions and more buckets.”
And maybe the Blue Devils could have pulled the Kahoks out of that zone.
“It was a zone we haven’t seen before,” Shoot said. “It was a 2-3 zone where they pressure the top, which isn’t the most fundamentally sound zone. Once you figure it out, it’s pretty easy to break. If you let that rattle you, it’s going to do what it did to us that first couple of minutes.
“It’s going to force you into turnovers and make your offense stagnant. Once we figured it out, we were able to penetrate it and get easier buckets.”
It’s how Ary got open for his crucial trey.
Shoot penetrated the Kahoks’ zone at the high post and kicked to Ary on the left wing. It was one of eight 3-pointers the Blue Devils made, while the Kahoks missed all 12 of their 3-point attempts.
“Aaron got that first three and we were like, ‘All right, we’re getting it back,'” Ary said. “And then I had a wide-open shot and was like, ‘Yep, this is ours. We’re done. It’s over.'”