By MATT SCHUCKMANHerald-Whig Sports Writer
During Saturday morning’s shootaround, Quincy High School boys basketball coach Sean Taylor asked the Blue Devils to do one thing against state-ranked Peoria Central.
“He said, ‘You just have to compete and compete and compete,'” junior guard Mason Fairley said.
The Blue Devils did that until the very last second.
Quincy scored on four of its final five possessions, closing the game on a 9-3 run that allowed the Blue Devils to upset the Lions 70-64 at Blue Devil Gym and sweep a pair of weekend games for the first time since the first weekend of December. It is also Quincy’s first victory over a state-ranked foe — the Lions are No. 3 in Class 3A — since upsetting Lincoln in the quarterfinals of the Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic in 2010.
“It’s a step over the hill for us,” senior forward Mike Davis said. “When we all come together, there’s no telling what we can do.”
Or how high the Blue Devils (10-5) can go.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Davis, who had 10 points and nine rebounds. “We should be No. 3 now.”
Davis said that tongue-in-cheek and with a chuckle, but he and the rest of the Blue Devils believe their effort is telling of what they can accomplish.
Quincy fell into a 7-0 hole in the game’s first 80 seconds and trailed by as many as eight points in the first quarter. However, Fairley’s layup off a DeAngelo Dean assist and Dean’s pair of free throws in the final 29.9 seconds cut the deficit to four.
“It’s what we expected,” Fairley said. “They try to get up big and win the game in the first five minutes. We just had to hang in there and keep chipping away, keep fighting and keep digging.”
That’s sort of become this team’s mantra.
“You just got to keep trying,” Davis said. “Never give up.”
Or back down.
After a charging call on Quincy’s first possession of the second quarter, the Blue Devils scored on nine of their next 10 possessions and went to halftime tied at 37.
“At halftime, it’s anybody’s game and we were like, ‘We have to win this thing,'” said Fairley, who made three 3-pointers and scored 17 points. “We knew we had the advantage and they were starting to lose their cool. We had to come out and we had to put it to them.”
The Blue Devils did so with defense.
Peoria Central forward Trey Kellum, the team’s leading scorer at nearly 15 points per game, scored 15 in the first half but made just one field goal in the second half and finished with 19 points. Without his inside presence, the Lions were forced to take perimeter jumpers, which is exactly what the Blue Devils hope for.
Peoria Central shot 42.1 percent overall, but the Lions were just 3 of 8 from 3-point range in the second half.
“And then, again, for being outsized, outstrengthed and outmuscled, we competed on the glass,” Taylor said.
The Lions owned a 33-32 edge on the boards, but the Blue Devils limited them to just two offensive boards in the fourth quarter.
Meanwhile, Quincy had three offensive boards in the fourth quarter, including a pivotal tip-in by junior reserve forward Jason Salrin early in the fourth quarter that put the Blue Devils ahead 54-52.
“We’ve been getting on Jason all year to attack the glass,” Taylor said. “He’s 6-7 and pretty athletic, so go and get tips and he got a big one tonight.”
It stayed a one possession game until the Blue Devils made five of six free throws after the Lions’ Josh Augusta drew a technical foul with three minutes to play. A one-point deficit turned into a four-point edge, although back-to-back baskets by Aldonis Foote tied the game with two minutes to go.
That’s where smart play won the game.
Kvitle, who had 20 points and five assists, scored off an alley-oop from Dean with 1:51 to go to give the Blue Devils the lead for good, and they made 7 of 8 free throws to close it out.
“Last year, they whooped us,” Davis said. “We were about to fight and everything. We just said, ‘We’ll get them next year.’ We sure did.”