Three 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