By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
QUINCY — All the momentum the Quincy High School boys basketball team built in trimming a seven-point deficit down to two was undone in the span on six possessions.
Coming out of a timeout called by QHS coach Andy Douglas with 3:25 remaining in regulation and the Blue Devils trailing 47-45, Providence St. Mel made three consecutive field goals, getting two layins off dribble penetration and a pull-up jumper just inside the free-throw line.
Meanwhile, the Blue Devils misfired five times on their three subsequent possessions, squandering a pair of offensive rebounds that could have stemmed the tide.
That allowed the Knights to salt away a 58-52 victory Friday night at Blue Devil Gym and head into Saturday as the only undefeated team in the 48th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament field.
“I liked the fact we were able to get the momentum back,” St. Mel coach Tim Ervin Sr. said. “It made a difference in being able to execute the game plan. The game plan was to attack, and we had opportunities to do that. We executed much better in that stretch there.”
The Knights’ defensive effort was equally important.
Between Jaeden Smith’s 3-pointer with 5:52 to play and Adonte Crider’s 3-pointer with 27.7 seconds to play, the Blue Devils went 1 of 10 from the field. Four of those misses came on shots within 5 feet of the basket.
“We have to take advantage of opportunities when they arise,” Douglas said. “We didn’t do that. It hurts when you have a wide-open opportunity and you miss it, and it leads right back to a wide-open layup for the other team.”
In this case, it led St. Mel to the brink of a championship.
The Knights (2-0) will face St. Louis Christian Academy (1-2) at 5:30 p.m. Saturday with a chance to complete a perfect weekend run. The Cougars will try to rebound from a 67-62 overtime loss to Waukegan that left open the possibility of a three-way tie for the title. That scenario only comes into play if St. Mel loses.
“We’re going to have execute for sure,” Ervin Sr. said. “That team is good, and they’re going to be upset after losing in overtime.”
Quincy (0-2) and Waukegan (1-1) will play the final game of the weekend at 7 p.m. Saturday with the Blue Devils hoping to avoid going winless in their own tournament for the first time since 2008.
It’s the inefficiency offensively that has put the Blue Devils in this position.
They shot 35.8 percent from the field — marginally better than the 27 percent Quincy shot in Thursday’s loss to St. Louis Christian — and just 20 percent from 3-point range. Making matters worse, the Blue Devils scored just 12 points off the Knights’ 20 turnovers.
“Scoring, and we knew this coming into this year, isn’t going to be easy for us,” Douglas said.
Because of that, the Blue Devils have trailed for more than 57 of the 64 minutes they’ve played in two games.
“We’re struggling right now in the execution category,” said Douglas, who got 15 points on 4-of-13 shooting from Smith and 10 points and seven rebounds from Jirehl Brock. “When we need to run a quick hitter, we can’t mess things up. Right now, we’re not a 100-percent team in execution. We’re probably closer to a 75-percent team. We’re not talented enough to not execute and expect to win.”
Certainly not when the other team executes in crucial moments.
Deion Jackson scored twice and Tyriel Nelson made a layup in the crucial stretch late in the fourth quarter and were among three Knights to finish in double figures. Nelson had a game-high 20 points, while Eric Jordan had 15 and Jackson finished with 13.
“We’re not executing at a high-enough level defensively when it comes to positioning,” Douglas said. “It’s not effort and energy, but it’s lack of execution.”
48th annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament
Providence St. Mel 58, Quincy High School 52