Matter of trust: Blue Devils gain confidence all around with strong finish

Quincy High School’s Adonte Crider drives to the basket against Belleville East’s Braxton Stacker during the consolation championship game of the 35th annual Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic. | Photo for the H-W/Jim Simmons

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 29, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Dec. 30, 2018 8:45 am

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — The most comforting and confidence-building aspect of Adonte Crider’s weekend was the fact the Quincy High School boys basketball coaching staff allowed him to play through his struggles.

It paid major dividends in the end.

Despite missing his first four 3-point attempts Saturday against Belleville East, Crider knocked down consecutive treys with two minutes remaining in the third quarter to turn a seemingly tight five-point lead into a nine-point bulge.

The Lancers never fully recovered, cutting the deficit to eight on a pair of occasions before the Blue Devils waltzed away with a 46-32 victory in the consolation championship game of the 35th annual Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic at Vergil Fletcher Gym.

“Coming into halftime, I knew my team needed more out of me,” said Crider, who had just four of his 14 points in the first half after going 6 of 26 from the field and 2 of 14 from 3-point range in Friday’s two games. “I don’t want to let my team down. So in my head, I’m like, ‘I know I have to do better.’ I come out and do whatever I can do to help the best I can.”

That boils down to trust, something the Blue Devils gained an abundance of throughout the tournament.

After a humbling loss to Edwardsville in Thursday’s opening round, Quincy strung together three dominant defensive efforts and headed home with three straight victories for the first time since winning the consolation championship in 2006.

That season, the Blue Devils rattled off 14 consecutive victories and ended up reaching a Class AA sectional championship game.

With his team sitting at 6-7, Quincy coach Andy Douglas isn’t going to draw any comparisons to the two teams or make any suggestions a similar run is coming. But he trusts the Blue Devils will put forth the kind of effort necessary to go on such a streak.

“In talking with our coaches, this weekend was all about trust,” Douglas said. “We had to be able to gain trust in Adonte that he’s going to have an rough offensive night but still be able to guard, that Lucas (Reis) is going to have turnovers but still be able to handle it the next possession.

“I think this was a great weekend for that because everyone gained a lot of trust in each other.”

And they trust their defense wholeheartedly.

Quincy finished as the best defensive team in the tournament, topping the field in points allowed (39.0), field goal defense (33.7 percent) and 3-point defense (18.6 percent).

As energetic as the Blue Devils played in Friday night’s 47-26 victory over Belleville Althoff, the defensive effort in the second half against Belleville East might have been better.

The Lancers went 0 of 6 from 3-point range, shot just 33 percent from the field and committed eight turnovers against just six field goals over the final 16 minutes. Overall, Belleville East committed 16 turnovers which led to 15 points for Quincy.

The Blue Devils also had a 10-2 advantage in fast-break points.

“I thought (Friday) was a turnaround game for us,” said Quincy senior guard Jaeden Smith, who had 14 points and three assists and finished the tournament 16 of 16 from the free-throw line. “Althoff is going to win a bunch of games this year because they’re a good team and we shut them down. We shut Belleville East down in the second half. Coach was on us in the first half about leaving shooters open.

“They didn’t make many, fortunately for us. But we locked them down in the second half.”

And locked up some necessary victories with a slew of tough road games on the horizon.

“I’m proud of the growth we made,” Douglas said. “We came into the tournament rough. It could go one of two ways after that, but we used it as a moment to grow. That’s been our motto ever since I’ve been here, but this group needed to see it happen. I’m proud of the growth from the first game on.”

35th annual Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic

Quincy 46, Belleville East 32

Talton sacrifices body for betterment of Blue Devils

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 29, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Dec. 30, 2018 8:46 am

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — The number of Gatorades the Quincy High School boys basketball team’s coaching staff owes Jeremiah Talton is beginning to creep into Jaeden Smith territory.

Could there be a new king of the charge in the Blue Devils’ locker room?

“I shift my guys towards (Talton) because I know he can take charges,” said Smith, the senior guard who led the Blue Devils in charges taken as a sophomore with 16 and drew eight more a year ago, earning a Gatorade from the coaches for each charge taken. “He’s been doing that very well.”

Talton, a 6-foot-4 freshman forward, drew two charges Saturday against Belleville East during a seven-possession stretch in which the Lancers failed to score a field goal and the Blue Devils turned a two-point game into an eight-point advantage.

The end result was a 46-32 victory in the consolation championship game of the 35th annual Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic and the third straight game in which the Blue Devils held an opponent to 39 points or fewer.

“Defense leads to energy on offense for us,” Talton said. “Getting stops leads to scoring. To be able to do that consistently is a pretty big deal.”

Tide-turning moments like taking a charge raise the energy in an infinite manner.

Talton hadn’t taken a charge in the first eight games, but he drew two in the victory against Washington that preceded the trip to Collinsville. In the consolation semifinals against Belleville Althoff, Talton drew a charge on the Crusaders on the opening possession, setting the tone for a 14-2 opening salvo.

Add in the two against Belleville East and Talton looks increasingly comfortable in the defensive role.

“It’s putting your body on the line for the team,” Talton said. “Knowing it’s going to lead to more offensive possessions and bigger possessions in the game makes it worth it.”

A year ago, he admittedly wouldn’t have done it, but he’s grown used to the physical nature of varsity basketball even though his career is just 13 games old.

“After I took the first one, it was OK,” Talton said.

When he’s taken a second, a third, a fourth, etc., it’s delighted the coaching staff.

“I’m not sure Vegas had him taking more than two charges this year,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said with a chuckle. “That’s an area I know he’s been working on. He’s putting his body on the line for this team. That’s a huge commitment and sacrifice that he’s willing to make.”

Smith, Blue Devils get in perfect rhythm


COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — Jaeden Smith is confident enough in his shooting touch that he never feels like he is forcing shots from the perimeter.

But there are moments he admits he doesn’t feel fully in rhythm.

“That’s when I’m missing shots,” Smith said. “It’s like I’m just throwing it up there.”

So what did Friday feel like?

“Like I was in rhythm,” Smith said.

Because he felt good, so did the Quincy High School boys basketball team. The Blue Devils won a pair of games in the 35th annual Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic, beating Oakville 62-39 and Belleville Althoff 47-26 to reach the consolation championship game Saturday against Belleville East.

Smith scored a game-high 25 points against the Tigers, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range. He followed it up with 16 points on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range against the Crusaders in what is unquestionably his best shooting day of the season.

“When I shoot it in rhythm, I find myself making it even more,” Smith said. “All day long, I found myself shooting really well because I was in rhythm with my shot.”

That was despite missing his first 3-point attempt against Oakville.

Smith responded by making his next three shots and scoring Quincy’s final eight points of the first quarter to give the Blue Devils a 20-10. He had 19 points at halftime, and then went 6 of 6 from the free-throw line in the second half to help salt away a victory.

“When he’s in rhythm, he’s the best shooter on the floor,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said.

Smith never lost his rhythm because he never tried to do too much.

“He was patient all the way throughout,” Douglas said. “Our guys did a great job all day long of getting him the ball in spots he could finish, and he was able to finish them off.”

That started with the first play against Althoff.

The Blue Devils won the tip and ran a play to get Smith the ball at the top of the key. When he came off a screen and caught the pass, he was wide open and made the shot that kickstarted an onslaught.

“Since I was so wide open, I had to make it,” Smith said with a smile.

That’s been a common refrain.

Smith heads into Saturday’s game against Belleville East with 124 career 3-pointers, just three shy of matching Kyle Cartmill’s career record.

“Most of the time when he shoots it, I know I don’t have to go after a rebound,” Brock said. “It takes a lot of pressure off me and a lot of pressure off us. After he shoots, we can just get back and get set defensively and press.

“When he’s on, he’s definitely on. That’s fun to see.”

Deflecting attention: Blue Devils disrupt Crusaders’ attack

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 28, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Dec. 29, 2018 12:50 am

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — If such a thing as a deflect-o-meter existed, Quincy High School boys basketball coach Andy Douglas would want to see how high his team could make it go.

Friday night, it might have gone off the charts.

Quincy disrupted Belleville Althoff’s attack so dramatically the Crusaders had more turnovers than points through three quarters. The Blue Devils took full advantage of that, allowing their second fewest points of the season in a 47-26 victory in the consolation semifinals of the 35th annual Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic.

“The amount of tips we had in the first half was ridiculous,” said Douglas, whose team will play Belleville East at 3 p.m. Saturday for the consolation championship. “It was unbelievable how many times we got hands on the ball and the number of times that led to layups which we finished.

“I don’t know how many deflections we actually had, but it would have sent the meter up really high.”

The goal was at least one deflection every possession. It nearly happened.

“It should be higher than it was because there were a lot of deflections a lot of people didn’t even notice,” Quincy senior guard Jirehl Brock said. “I can remember a time in the game where I got a deflection and it went out of bounds and they called it our ball because the official didn’t see I had a deflection on it.

“We were just all over the place.”

While the defense locked in almost immediately — Althoff committed turnovers on three of its first five possessions — the energy was generated by a near perfect start offensively.

Quincy buried its first four 3-point attempts, scored on five of its first six possessions and led 14-2 four minutes into the game. It took a well executed play on the game’s first possession to kicksart that opening salvo.

Senior guard Jaeden Smith came off a screen to catch the ball uncovered at the top of the key and make an uncontested 3-pointer just 16 seconds into the game. Althoff never pulled even or led thereafter.

“It allows us to settle in,” said Smith, who went 4 of 8 from 3-point range and scored 16 points. “We had a ton of energy. Having that lead at the beginning gives a step ahead, and we feel like we play well with the lead.”

Douglas knew the Blue Devils were in good shape when Smith’s first shot fell.

“Nothing better than starting a game by executing a play to perfection,” Douglas said.

The Blue Devils weren’t always perfect.

After making their first four 3-pointers, they missed their next 11 attempts. Lucas Reis snapped that streak when he hit a trey from the top of the key with 5:13 remaining in the third quarter.

At that point, the Blue Devils were up 31-13 and in the midst of holding the Crusaders to just two points in the third quarter.

Althoff trailed 34-15 going to the fourth quarter, having committed 16 turnovers and shot 25 percent from the field.

“We kind of felt going into the game they weren’t going to be able to handle our pressure and that they hadn’t seen anything like our zone,” Brock said. “We were working on keeping them out of the paint. We wanted to limit that. It’s kind of hard to stop it, but you can always limit their ability with that.”

35th annual Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic

Quincy 47, Althoff 26

My, Oh My, Jeremiah: Freshman helps Blue Devils end five-game home-court losing streak

Jake Shane/Quincy Herald Whig

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 16, 2018 12:01 am Updated: Dec. 16, 2018 1:14 am

QUINCY — The will of a senior could only be outdone by the pluck of a freshman.

The Quincy High School boys basketball team needed that to happen.

The Blue Devils’ 12-point lead in the fourth quarter Saturday night was whittled to three as Quincy Notre Dame senior point Nick Schwartz engineered a rally. He scored 10 of the Raiders’ 18 points during a stretch in which they converted on eight straight possessions and trailed just 57-54 with three minutes to play.

That didn’t faze Jeremiah Talton in the least.

The Blue Devils’ 6-foot-4 freshman swingman scored on back-to-back possessions, converting an offensive rebound and then burying a 3-pointer from the left corner that pushed the lead back to 10 points and ultimately led to a 72-59 victory at Blue Devil Gym.

“We needed a couple of buckets to get us back in rhythm,” said Talton, who led the Blue Devils with a career-high 21 points. “All summer I practiced that, get in a rhythm and shoot it. It paid off.”

The way Talton handled the big moments in an electric atmosphere was as impressive as his 5-of-6 performance from 3-point range.

“That kid is going to be something special,” Schwartz said. “I’m not going to say that was their biggest game of the year, but it was their biggest atmosphere and one of the biggest stages of their season. Stepping up to make those shots, that says a lot for him as a freshman.”

It might end up being the Blue Devils’ biggest game because they finally handled a tight late-game situation with confidence. All of their six losses have been by six points or less, including Friday night’s 55-52 setback against Rock Island, and they were 0-5 at home this season.

“Right now, any win is important,” QHS senior guard Jirehl Brock said. “We just have to find that identity and find how to win.”

QND coach Kevin Meyer believes the Raiders may have found their identity, too, despite the loss.

“They never laid down,” Meyer said. “It would have been easy in that environment and everything going on around you. You’ve got Jirehl playing about the rim and Jeremiah banging home threes. It would have been easy to wilt under that. Our guys never did.”

It teetered on happening a couple of times.

Leading 33-27 at halftime, the Blue Devils (2-6) opened the third quarter by scoring on four of their first five possessions and pulling ahead 43-31. However, the Raiders (5-4) dug in defensively and limited the Blue Devils to three points over the final 5:50 of the quarter and trailed just 44-36.

“We dug ourselves a hole,” Schwartz said. “But we battled. We fought ourselves back into the game.”

What the Raiders couldn’t do was stop the Blue Devils from scoring.

QHS exploded for 26 points in the fourth quarter, scoring on all but three possessions. The Blue Devils committed just five turnovers in the game and shot 47.1 percent from the field and 47.8 from 3-point range.

“We played solid,” Brock said. “One thing we did tonight that we didn’t do in the other close games is we protected the ball pretty well.”

They had a freshman enjoy a coming-of-age moment.

“As soon as I got on the court and started hitting, I was all right,” said Talton, who went 4 of 4 from 3-point range as part of a 16-point first half. “I could tell from the start of the game I was going to be on tonight. I started shooting, and I was hitting.”

His confidence was infectious.

“Even in practice, we will have shooting competitions from the free-throw line and he doesn’t miss,” Brock said. “He has the most confidence out of any freshman I have ever seen. He steps up to the plate and doesn’t shy away from anything.”

He shied away from nothing Saturday night.

“I look at him, and he looks like he’s a junior out there,” QHS coach Andy Douglas said. “He’s got that confidence. Any time the ball goes out of his hands, you think the shot is going in.”

The Blue Devils would have taken that from anyone, just as long as they shed their late-game woes and continued their dominance of this series. QHS has won four straight and five of the last six meetings in the crosstown showdown.

“The amount of energy that was in the gym tonight and the emotion that goes into this, it was huge for us,” Douglas said. “The biggest thing was being able to finish a game.”

Quincy High School 72, Quincy Notre Dame 59

Blue Devils struggle in late-game situations, fall to Rocks

Quincy High School’s Lucas Reis, right, tries to drive past Rock Island’s JaMir Price during Friday night’s Western Big Six Conference game at Blue Devil Gym. | H-W Photo/Mat Mikesell

By Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 15, 2018 12:01 am

QUINCY — Quincy High School boys basketball coach Andy Douglas repeated himself to place emphasis on why the Blue Devils struggle in late-game situations.

“Unsure,” he said. “Unsure.”

Despite that, Douglas is fairly certain of this. If the Blue Devils keep putting themselves on the verge of success, eventually they will reap the rewards.

Friday night, though, was another fruitless ending.

Trailing Rock Island by a point with 1 minute, 40 seconds remaining in regulation, Quincy failed to take the lead on four consecutive possessions and had its final opportunity snuffed out when Rocky sophomore Jordan Rice stole the ball from QHS senior Jaeden Smith with two seconds remaining. Rice subsequently made two free throws to give the Rocks a 55-52 Western Big Six Conference victory at Blue Devil Gym.

“It’s definitely a killer,” said Smith, who scored seven of his team-leading 15 points in the fourth quarter. “I thought we had really good chances to score and could have put it in the net, but we came up with some unfortunate plays. We have to find a way to dig out that win.”

The Blue Devils (1-6, 1-2 WB6) are desperate for it. All six of their losses have been by six points or less, and Friday was the second time in a one-point game they have failed to execute on the final possession.

“I think some of the individuals are confident in what they want to accomplish and get done, and then we have some that are just not sure,” Douglas said. “The confidence isn’t there. It’s not easy when you’re 1-6 and losing games by six, three, one. It’s hard to have that confidence.”

Quincy turned the ball over on four of its final seven possessions and failed to score the final 3:10.

“It’s super frustrating because we know we’re capable of winning these games,” Smith said. “It comes down to a couple of turnovers that are costly for us, no matter what quarter it is. We have to handle the ball better.”

Turnovers gave Rock Island (6-3, 2-1 WB6) the advantage.

Lucas Reis put Quincy ahead 52-50 by making a pair of free throws with 3:10 to go. After JaMir Price pulled the Rocks within a point by splitting a pair of free throws, he stole the ball from Blue Devils freshman Jeremiah Talton and scored a layup in transition for a 53-52 lead with 1:40 to play.

Price, who has committed to Bradley, finished with a game-high 21 points.

“I’m proud of our toughness, not only to make some shots when we did, but to make the defensive plays down the stretch,” Rock Island coach Thom Sigel said.

The Rocks made a few. After a timeout with 1:18 to go, Reis stole the ball and looked to have a shot at making a go-ahead layup. Price hustled back to disrupt the play, and although the Blue Devils collected the offensive rebound, they subsequently turned the ball over.

A missed 3-point attempt by Quincy sophomore Brady Rupert with 25 seconds remaining was rebounded by Rock Island’s Andrew McDuffy. His missed front end of the 1-and-1 was rebounded by Jirehl Brock and Quincy called its final timeout with 20.6 seconds remaining.

The Blue Devils weren’t able to run anything toward the basket and Adonte Crider nearly lost possession in front of the Quincy bench when he was tied up and a jump ball was called. The Blue Devils retained possession and inbounded the ball to Smith, who took two dribbles and did a jump stop into the lane.

Rice stepped in and stripped him and was fouled with 1.1 seconds remaining.

“That looked like it was totally clean from where I was,” Sigel said. “That was quick hands. I don’t know how tell a kid, ‘Quit thinking and just play.’ But that was a situation where he just played and made a big play.”

Smith was trying to do the same.

“I have to try to play through the contact and try to find somebody next time,” Smith said.

Douglas is confident there will be a next time.

“I can’t tell them enough how much I believe in them as a group and how much I believe in them individually,” Douglas said. “One of these days it’s going to click. I hope it’s sooner rather than later.”

Rock Island 55, Quincy High School 52