Blue Devils remain confident they can challenge for title

Quincy High School senior point guard Martin Kvitle and the second-seeded Blue Devils will look to change the tide of their season by knocking out third-seeded Alton in Tuesday’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal of the Class 4A Granite City Regional.

(H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)

Herald-Whig Sports Editor

Mason Fairley answered with the confidence you’d expect from a starting guard on a Quincy High School boys basketball team that won 11 straight games at one point this season.

The ironic thing is the streak is a distant memory.

Just like first place in the Western Big Six Conference.

Just like the perception this team could give top-seeded Edwardsville a challenge in the Class 4A Granite City Regional.

Yet, Fairley remains confident the Blue Devils can be a contender despite all that has gone wrong in recent weeks.

“We’ve never lost our confidence,” Fairley said last week. “We believe in each other, and we believe we can win. No one in here is thinking any different.”

Hearing that gives Quincy coach Sean Taylor hope that what he sees isn’t misleading.

Taylor said he liked many of the things the Blue Devils did during their season-ending 61-47 loss at Rock Island last Friday night and has always felt this team will fight to the finish.

The challenge is cleaning up the defensive breakdowns and the offensive inconsistency that led to losses in five of Quincy’s final six games.

“We can’t play from behind,” Taylor said. “That’s what we’ve been doing. Our defense has to dig in and get stops and not allow teams to get the better of us.

“If we can buckle down and get stops and make teams work to score, we’ll be OK. We have to play with the lead and put the pressure on someone else. Too often lately we’ve been putting the pressure on ourselves.”

Well, the pressure is on Quincy’s experienced backcourt to give the Blue Devils an edge.

Martin Kvitle leads Quincy in scoring at 15.7 points per game and has been the best threat from the perimeter, knocking down 32 3-pointers. Still, he’s the only player averaging in double figures.

Fairley’s increased production has upped his scoring average to 7.2 points per game. No one else averages more than six points per game,

“We have to take it upon ourselves to get it done,” Kvitle said. “Mason and I have to lead this team with our effort and our intensity. Yeah, we need to score, but we need to play better defense and give more effort.

“There is nothing more to play for after this. I don’t want to regret not giving us every chance to win in the postseason.”

Taylor fully expects Kvitle and the rest of the Blue Devils to do that.

“The best thing about coaching this group is you know they are going to show up to work and give you their best effort,” Taylor said. “We’ve had some struggles, but they keep fighting. I fully expect them to fight until the final buzzer.”

2 Wins Over the Weekend

0128139095406_largeGet out the shears

Quincy High School senior point guard Martin Kvitle the first 16 games with a crop of curly hair that was a stark contrast to the shaved head he had as a junior.

After beating Rock Island to wrap up the first half of the Western Big Six Conference, it was time to bring the shaved look back.

“To be honest, it was getting annoying,” Kvitle said. “I could feel it in my ears and see it out of my periphery. That’s when I knew it was time to shave it.”

So gone were the curly locks. Unlike Samson, though, Kvitle didn’t lose any strength. In fact, his shot may have improved.

Kvitle knocked down five 3-pointers against Hinsdale South and then followed by going 4 of 9 combined from 3-point range in victories against United Township and Champaign Central. Kvitle finished the weekend with 24 points against UT and 15 against Central.

Combined, he went 14 of 26 from the field and 7 of 9 from the free-throw line while racking up four assists and three steals.

“It’s just better this way,” Kvitle said, shaking his head at the fact he was asked about his haircut.

Spark off the bench

Cole Abbey’s mindset didn’t change much when Quincy High School boys basketball coach Sean Taylor decided to bring the 6-foot senior guard off the bench in victories over United Township and Champaign Central.

“I’ve got to do my part,” Abbey said.

He did just that. Abbey scored 10 first-half points, picked up two steals and helped the Blue Devils some separation in the second quarter that led to a 60-49 victory over Champaign Central. Abbey finished with 14 points, three rebounds and two steals.

“If my part is to play defense and get steals, I have to do that,” Abbey said. “If Coach wants me to drive the ball, I’ll do that.”

What Taylor wants is for Abbey to play with energy, effort and intelligence. He did that in the weekend sweep, going for seven points with one rebound, one steal and one dunk against the Panthers.

And Abbey had no problems getting energized to play, even if he wasn’t starting.

“Last year, I came off the bench,” Abbey said. “So I’m used to it.”

It’s the right attitude to have.

“He played some fantastic minutes,” Kvitle said. “He wanted to play, and you could tell he wanted to play.”

Fly swatter

Early against Champaign Central, Quincy forward Jason Salrin was whistled for a foul as he contested the shot of the Maroons’ Xavier Martin. It could have limited Salrin’s aggressiveness.

It didn’t.

Instead, Salrin, a 6-foot-7 senior made it extremely difficult for the Maroons to get to the basket, blocking a career-high six shots and establishing himself as an intimidating presence with his help-side defense. He also had one block against United Township.

“He cleaned everything up,” Taylor said.

A nice touch

Taylor has said the Blue Devils need Zach Burry to make shots, especially from the perimeter. Well, he’s knocking down more than just 3-pointers and giving the Blue Devils a lift in the process.

Burry had 12 points against UT and six more against Champaign Central, hitting four 3-pointers in the process. However, he also knocked down a pair of fadeaway jumpers and showed the ability to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim. He has now scored six or more points in five of the last six games, going for double digits twice.

“He’s playing better than I’ve ever seen him play,” Kvitle said. “I knew he could play like this. It goes back to confidence.”

Shot at 20

With six regular-season games remaining, the Blue Devils (15-4) have a shot at reaching the 20-win plateau before the postseason begins. It would be quite an accomplishment. In Taylor’s first nine seasons as head coach, the Blue Devils have won at least 20 games four times, but the 2006-07 team was the only one to reach 20 victories in the regular season. That team won 16 of its final 17 regular-season games and finished with a 23-6 record overall.

UT Game

0128139095739_largeBy MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor

There are times Quincy High School boys basketball coach Sean Taylor takes the classroom to the court.

When he does, he likes to use Larry Bird as a reference point.

It seems to work.

“He brings up the Bird quote where he walked in for the (All-Star Game) 3-point contest and says, ‘Who’s playing for second?'” Quincy point guard Martin Kvitle said. “That’s the way we’re going to play.”

Friday night, it’s exactly how the Blue Devils came out of the locker room to start the second half.

Quincy opened the third quarter on a 12-2 run, getting eight straight points from Kvitle and riding the momentum to a 62-52 Western Big Six Conference victory over United Township at Blue Devil Gym.

“We’re going to come into every game thinking, ‘You’re going to lose,'” said Kvitle, who went 10 of 17 from the field and scored a game-high 24 points. “We know it’s not going to come just by coming in and showing up. We’re going to have to play hard and blue collar. Everybody has the confidence.”

They put it on display.

The Blue Devils (14-4, 6-0 WB6) enjoyed one of the best offensive nights of the season, shooting 57.1 percent from the field (24 of 42) and 54.5 percent from 3-point range (6 of 11).

“I think they came out with focus,” said Taylor, who got 12 points from Zach Burry and 10 points from Mason Fairley. “We got off to good start. (UT) played physical, and we didn’t cowtow to them. We took it back at them and got some easy ones from it. I think we just played with a lot of confidence.”

That could carry Quincy to the WB6 crown.

With Moline beating Galesburg 57-56 as the Maroons’ Derrick Stabler split a pair of free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining, the Blue Devils now own a two-game lead over both the Silver Streaks and Rock Island with four games remaining.

Quincy travels to Galesburg next week with the chance to conceivably knock the Silver Streaks out of the WB6 race.

“More than any team we’ve had in the past, we all play for one another,” Kvitle said. “Because of that, we’ll be good. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. There’s a lot of basketball left. But we’ll play as a team and give ourselves a chance.”

United Township coach Marc Polite believes the same thing about the Panthers.

Keegan Wenskunas and Evan Spurgetis came off the bench to combine for four 3-pointers — Wenskunas made three of them — in the first half as UT led until Fairley buried a 3-pointer from about 30 feet at the first-quarter buzzer.

Although they trailed by as many as seven points in the second quarter, the Panthers (3-17, 1-5) made a push to get within four points at halftime. Sophomore guard Trevor May, who spent much of the first half on the bench with two fouls, scored five points in the final 51 seconds to make it a 32-28 game.

“I thought we played well,” said Polite, who got four 3-pointers and 14 points from Raymond Terronez. “We definitely had some things we needed to address (at halftime), but I thought we had given ourselves a chance.”

Quincy took that away.

The Blue Devils’ opening salvo of the third quarter featured five points coming off Panthers’ turnovers as UT committed six miscues in the quarter and 18 overall.

“I just thought we had some struggles taking care of the basketball,” Polite said. “We had some stretches where we threw it around the gym a little bit.”

Quincy took advantage, making its first five shots and going 9 of 11 from the field overall in the third quarter.

“We had a pretty good flow,” Taylor said.

It helps when confidence soars.

“You have to shoot it to make it, not shoot it not to miss,” Kvitle said. “You have to know it’s going in. There are sometimes you feel that way after you make a couple.”

It’s a feeling the Blue Devils hope lingers.


WB6 Run

0128139095406_largeThe three-time defending Western Big Six Conference champion and preseason favorite, according to a media poll, visits Blue Devil Gym on Friday night with its sights set on moving into a first-place tie with Quincy High School.

Rock Island might be looking for a little revenge, too.

Last year, in the regular-season finale, Quincy’s Martin Kvitle buried a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds left to give the Blue Devils a 51-48 victory over the Rocks and a share of the WB6 crown. Had Rocky won, it would have captured the league title outright for the second year in a row.

Instead, it had to share the title with Quincy for the second time in the last three years.

Although Friday marks the midpoint of the WB6 season, several scenarios already are developing that could lead to these two rivals sharing the title or duking it out with the title at stake when Quincy visits Rocky on Feb. 22.

And don’t forget Galesburg could play the spoiler role for both. The Blue Devils got the better of the Silver Streaks at Blue Devil Gym in December, but a trip to Thiel Gym in February looms. Galesburg, meanwhile, handed Rocky its lone WB6 loss so far and figures to be 4-1 in the league after this week.

So what many saw as a two-horse race has another entry, one capable of winning the whole thing.

With that in mind, how does Quincy win its 21st league crown?

The Blue Devils will do it with size.

Jason Salrin, the 6-foot-7 senior forward, gets better day after day and is arguably the best rebounder in the league. He’s always been a presence on the defensive end of the floor and on the boards, but his offensive contributions are growing and his confidence is soaring. There may not be a big man in the league that can shut him down right now.

Add to that the presence of 6-3 junior Connor Mellon, who says he is getting more comfortable and really understanding his role. Mellon transferred from Quincy Notre Dame, enrolling at QHS the first week of school learning Sean Taylor’s offense and the coach’s demands on the fly. It gives Quincy a solid 1-2 punch.

Throw 6-3 junior Barnell Thomas in the mix and the Blue Devils possess three guys who know how to go get the basketball. Thomas’ emergence as a rebounder and finisher adds depth to a frontcourt that has gone from a question mark to a strength.

The veteran backcourt is a constant for Quincy and much will be expected from Kvitle, Cole Abbey and Mason Fairley down the stretch.

Yet, if the Blue Devils are serious about winning the WB6 outright and adding their number to the wall in Blue Devil Gym, they better go big to do it.


0128139095406_largeMartin Kvitle understands the Quincy High School boys basketball team’s solid first half of the season will grab people’s attention.

It’s not what gets you remembered.

“They don’t put numbers up for what we’ve done,” said Kvitle, motioning toward the north wall of Blue Devil Gym where each of Quincy’s Western Big Six Conference championships and state appearances is highlighted. “This is Quincy. Those things matter to people. Those things matter to us. That’s what we’re working toward.”

The Blue Devils have set themselves up to add to that legacy.

Quincy is 11-2 following a runner-up finish at the 29th annual Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic. The Blue Devils sit alone atop the WB6 with a 3-0 record, and they are enjoying their first state ranking since Illinois went to a four-class system, settling in at No. 8 in this week’s Class 4A poll.

As Kvitle noted, none of that matters if the Blue Devils don’t follow it up with something special.

Just how do they do that?

They continue playing defense the way they have the last 12 games.

A team with high expectations got a reality check in the season opener against Carbondale. Devontavius Payne lit the Blue Devils up for 33 points and the Terriers overcame a double-digit deficit to win 76-70. Since then, the Blue Devils have allowed 60 points only once, held eight opponents to 43 or fewer points and are allowing 40.4 points per game.

“I’m really happy with our defense,” senior guard Cole Abbey said. “Like Coach said, that’s going to be our identity this year. We’re really playing good defense.”

For the second half of the season to mirror the first and for the Blue Devils to add their number to the wall, the defense better be just as good.

State Ranked

0128139095406_largePosted by mschuckman – January 10, 2013

When the Quincy High School boys basketball players learned they had cracked the Class 4A state poll, there was a moment of pride.

“We’re surprised we’re No. 8, but we worked hard for it,” senior guard Cole Abbey said.

They know they can’t be satisfied by it.

“That’s just a number,” senior guard Martin Kvitle said. “We can’t look at that and think that’s it. We have bigger, better things we need to have on our minds.”

Still, Quincy’s first state ranking since Illinois went to a four-class system should be motivation to make the second half of the season just as memorable as the first.

The Blue Devils (11-2) strung together an 11-game winning streak — the second-longest streak in Sean Taylor’s 10 seasons as head coach — while reaching the championship game of the 29th annual Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic and starting Western Big Six Conference play 3-0.

“I want them to appreciate it because it says something about how they’ve developed as players and as a team,” Taylor said. “When it’s all said and done, you better bring it on Friday and Saturday nights. I know it’s cliche, but it doesn’t matter what you’re ranked when the ball goes up.

“It’s a good reward for everything they’ve done thus far, and hopefully they’ll work to improve even more.”

Quincy finds itself in familiar company. Edwardsville is ranked fifth, Belleville East is sixth and Rock Island is seventh. Throw in No. 4 Chicago Heights Marian Catholic, which visits Blue Devil Gym this Saturday, and the Blue Devils can gauge just how well they stack up.

“We have the chance, I think, to be really good,” Kvitle said.

Collinsville Wrap-Up

0128139095406_largeMartin Kvitle didn’t agree with the call, but he’d make the play again.

Three minutes into Saturday night’s championship game of the 29th annual Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic, East St. Louis guard DeShawn Munson stole a ball in the backcourt and attacked the rim, looking to dunk. Kvitle, Quincy High School’s senior point guard, blocked Munson and knocked the Flyers standout to the Vergil Fletcher Gym floor in the process.

Kvitle was called for a flagrant foul while Munson went to the line and made 1 of 2 free throws. Munson scored on the ensuing possession as part of the Flyers’ 8-0 run to open the game that propelled them to a 60-52 victory.

“We have to make fouls like I did,” Kvitle said. “There should be no easy layups. It was a questionable call (whether it was intentional). Back in the day, that’s just a foul. But you can’t blame the refs. You have to play hard. You have to make plays like that.”

It set the tone for a physical, aggressive and sometimes chippy game.

With the Blue Devils trailing 52-43 in the final two minutes, Quincy’s Cole Abbey made a steal near midcourt and was hip-checked into the scorer’s table. The Quincy bench wanted a flagrant fouled called. Instead, Quincy coach Sean Taylor was slapped with a technical foul when he jumped up and down in disgust.

The technical didn’t factor much into the outcome. Abbey made two free throws after the foul, while East St. Louis made 1 of 2 free throws and then failed to scored on the ensuing possession.

Mellon to sit next game

Quincy junior forward Connor Mellon will serve a one-game suspension when the Blue Devils face Rock Island Alleman Jan. 11 at Blue Devil Gym.

With 3:43 remaining against East St. Louis, Mellon was called for elbowing East St. Louis forward Terry Beckner as they worked for position in the post. Mellon was given a technical foul and ejected.

The reaction of the Quincy crowd led to one fan being walked away by school personnel and another fan being escorted from gym by police officers.

In the record book

Kvitle added his name to the tournament record book by going 10 for 10 from the free-throw line.

He becomes the 13th player in tournament history to finish with a 1.000 free throw percentage in a single game. To qualify, a player must have at least 10 attempts.

Kvitle joins two other Quincy players on the list. Jack Kramer went 13 of 13 from the line against Chicago Julian in 1985. James Bailey went 10 for 10 against East St. Louis Lincoln in 1986.

The all-tournament team

Belleville East forward Malcolm Hill, who has signed with Illinois, was named the tournament MVP. Hill led the top-seeded Lancers to third place while averaging 27.5 points and 3.5 blocked shots per game.

Kvitle and Cole Abbey were both named to the all-tournament team. Kvitle averaged 15.3 points and Abbey averaged 17.3 points for the Blue Devils.

The rest of the all-tournament team included Munson, East St. Louis forward Johnny McCray, Collinsville guard Falando Wilkinson, Springfield Southeast guard Herman Senor, Granite City guard Omar Walker, Dunlap forward Alex Sorenson, Lincoln guard Max Cook and Riverview Gardens guard Tyrin Williams.

Quincy Versus Southeast

0128139095406_largeTrailing third-seeded Springfield Southeast by three points at halftime in Friday night’s quarterfinals of the 29th annual Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic, the Quincy High School boys basketball team knew one way to turn the tide.

The Blue Devils had to get better on the boards.

Quincy was outrebounded 18-12 in the first half and gave up seven offensive rebounds. However, a spirited effort led by 6-foot-7 senior forward Jason Salrin changed that. The Blue Devils limited the Spartans to two offensive boards in the second half and outrebounded them 19-14 over the final 16 minutes in earning a 51-44 victory.

Salrin posted a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, overcoming foul trouble to be one of the biggest factors on the floor.

“Jason was a beast on the glass for us,” Quincy coach Sean Taylor said. “I thought his willingness to attack the glass was impressive.”

Salrin picked up his fourth foul with 4 minutes, 55 seconds remaining in the third quarter and sat the remainder of the period. He returned to the lineup at the start of the fourth quarter, played aggressive and stayed in the game.

Playing from behind

After enduring a scoreless stretch of nearly five minutes during the second quarter, the Blue Devils were forced to play from behind. Not that it bothered them much.

“Coach sets us goals, saying we need to be tied by this time, get a bigger lead by this much time,” Salrin said. “We have our goals and we achieve them.”

Quincy trailed by as many as six points late in the second quarter and began the third quarter down by three. It took the Blue Devils 3:35 to tie the game and 5:22 to regain the lead. After a series of lead changes and ties, Quincy took the lead for good on Martin Kvitle’s layup with 4:24 to play.

It kickstarted an 8-0 run that gave the Blue Devils control.

“I thought we learned how to play against them,” Taylor said. “In the late first and early second quarters, they sped us up and we made some poor decisions. After that, we got it to the rim or made a backup dribble when it wasn’t there. We learned what to do.”

A big embrace

In the closing seconds, Taylor replaced Cole Abbey with Lincoln Elbe, and as Abbey came to the bench, the Quincy coach grabbed his senior guard, gave him a hearty hug and reminded Abbey his commitment to defense was big reason the Blue Devils won.

“I just thought he really competed,” Taylor said. “They all competed, but Cole has made so many big strides from last season to this season, and I don’t think he’s reached his ceiling.”

Abbey’s task Friday night was to slow Southeast guard Jagger Anderson, who scored just five points over the final 12 minutes. Instead of trying to strip Anderson of the ball, Abbey maintained his position

“The main reason I was proud of him is often he tries to pick it and take the easy way out,” Taylor said. “This time, he kept Anderson in front of him, and that wasn’t easy. If he can guard like that, he can guard Rocky and quick teams that we are going to play.”

Quincy Versus Dunlap

0128139095406_largeThree minutes into Thursday’s opening round game of the 29th annual Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic, the Quincy High School boys basketball team hadn’t scored and looked discombobulated on offense.

Luka Radovic and Barnell Thomas helped change that.

The junior forwards came off the bench near the five-minute mark with the Blue Devils trailing 6-0 and played a pivotal part of a seven-point run that alleviated the stress. Radovic scored Quincy’s first basket, catching a pass from Mason Fairley on the block and aggressively turning and attacking the rim.

Two possessions later, Thomas caught a Martin Kvitle pass at the free-throw line and didn’t hesitate in burying a 15-foot jumper that gave Quincy the lead. Although the lead changed hands eight more times, their energy off the bench was a pivotal part of the Blue Devils’ 52-43 victory.

“Once we got on the board, we knew there wasn’t a cap on the rim,” Fairley said. “Our confidence slowly grew. That first possession when we got some points on the board, we thought, ‘OK, here we go.’”

It’s because Radovic and Thomas came in ready to play.

“They were really good and they played a great stretch,” Quincy coach Sean Taylor said.

They knew it was expected.

“It’s important for us to give us a spark being the first two subs,” Thomas said. “We have to have that energy. It’s just important for us.”

No need for threes

The Blue Devils aren’t a prolific shooting bunch, averaging four 3-pointers made per game. Yet, they’ve been able to use the trey to loosen up defenses most of the time.

That wasn’t the case against the Eagles.

Quincy didn’t make a 3-pointer for the first time this season, and the Blue Devils attempted only three shots from behind the arc. In fact, they didn’t attempt a 3-pointer the final 15 minutes when attacking the rim and getting to the free-throw line mattered more.

The Blue Devils went 18 of 28 from the line and went 6 of 8 from the line in the final three minutes.

Playing off each other

Now 10 games into the season and on a nine-game winning streak, the Blue Devils continue to show the chemistry of a team capable of winning 20 games and a conference crown.

Despite struggling offensively, the timing and ability to play off each other was still there.

With 22 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Quincy forward Jason Salrin set a pick for Kvitle at the high post and and rolled to the basket. When his defender jumped to the middle of the lane to cut Kvitle off, Salrin was left open for a layin.

A similar play happened again at the end of the first half. Kvitle attacked the middle of the lane and dumped a pass to Cole Abbey for a layup, foul and three-point play.

The Blue Devils finished with 10 assists on 17 field goals

Blue Devils’ relentless defense leads to win over Batavia

0128139095406_largeBy BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer

The Quincy High School boys basketball team didn’t lose its focus.

Facing a methodical Batavia squad, the Blue Devils leaned on relentless defense to secure a 50-42 non-conference win Saturday night at Blue Devil Gym.

“Mental toughness was the key for us,” QHS senior guard Mason Fairley said. “You have to keep your focus. We talked today about how this team likes to run around a little bit, and you have to stay disciplined the whole possession. You have to play defense the whole possession.”

The Blue Devils (4-1) also had to make the most of their offensive possessions considering their opportunities were more limited than usual based on the slow nature of the game.

Although QHS shot only 37.5 percent from the field, the Blue Devils protected the basketball and consistently made their way to the free-throw line.

QHS committed only 10 turnovers — compared to 16 for Batavia — and was 18 of 28 from the charity stripe. The Bulldogs (2-3) were 3 of 4 from the foul line.

“We knew it was going to be a grind-it-out game,” said QHS coach Sean Taylor, whose team came into the game averaging 63.5 points per game. “We chose to play it maybe a little more conservative and grind it out, and we thought our guys would rise to the challenge of guarding every possession.”

The Blue Devils did that especially well in the second half.

Batavia made only six of its 18 fourth-quarter field-goal attempts and shot just 37 percent overall.

“You just have to dig down and guard,” QHS senior guard Martin Kvitle said. “It takes a lot of team defense to beat a team like that because they’re disciplined, they’ll run backdoor (cuts) and every one of those kids could create off the dribble.”

Kvitle helped seal the win by going 7 of 8 from the free-throw line in the final 1:03.

“We were shooting free throws, and they were having to shoot jump shots,” Kvitle said. “It’s nice having the lead when it’s a close game.”

Kvitle scored a game-high 21 points and was the only Blue Devil in double figures.

“(Kvitle) is as good of guard as I think we’ll play all year,” Batavia coach Jim Nazos said.

It was a Kvitle steal during the fourth quarter that led to a momentum-building play for the Blue Devils. Kvitle had a fastbreak opportunity off of his forced turnover and considered going up for a dunk. Instead, he opted to go for a layup, but his shot wouldn’t fall.

Senior guard Cole Abbey was trailing the play and elevated to flush down the missed layup with a two-handed slam that put QHS ahead 42-38 with 3:15 to play.

“Thank God he was there because he saved me a butt-chewing,” Kvitle said.

The dunk never would have happened had Abbey assumed Kvitle would make the layup. That fact wasn’t lost on Taylor.

“Last year, Cole wouldn’t have made the effort to sprint, and this year he made the effort,” Taylor said.

Abbey, who scored nine points, generated a key defensive stop near the end of the third quarter.

With about 50 seconds left in the quarter, Abbey stole the ball and had a fastbreak. He too missed the layup, but Fairley collected the rebound, was fouled and made two free throws to put QHS ahead 30-29.

Batavia’s next possession also resulted in a turnover, giving QHS the final possession of the quarter, and Connor Mellon scored on a putback just before the buzzer to cap a 6-0 run that gave the Blue Devils a 32-29 lead. QHS never trailed again.

QHS’s finish to the third quarter was a stark contrast from the first and second quarters. In those quarters, Batavia held the ball for the final possession.

Micah Coffey, who led Batavia with 12 points, capped the final first-quarter possession with a 3-pointer, and Luke Horton knifed his way into the paint for a basket just before the second-quarter buzzer to give the Bulldogs a 19-18 halftime lead.

“Those (final possessions) are momentum builders,” Nazos said. “We always like to get the last one of the quarter, and we didn’t in the third (quarter).”