Rocks put Blue Devils away with clutch free throws

By MARC NESSELER
Special to the Whig
Posted: Feb. 8, 2019 12:01 am Updated: Feb. 8, 2019 11:30 pm

ROCK ISLAND, Ill. – His shooting percentage suggests otherwise, but Rock Island senior Aaron Voss feels he’s in the same class of accurate free-throw shooters as Quincy High School sharpshooters Jaeden Smith (87.5 percent) and Lucas Reis (83.3 percent). 

“Every time I step to the line, I’m confident about the free throw going in,” Voss said, “whether it does or doesn’t. I don’t think about it. I just step up and shoot them.” 

Voss is just a 58-percent shooter from the stripe. However, in Friday’s 60-54 victory over Quincy in Western Big Six Conference play at Rock Island Fieldhouse, he was the most clutch one there. He finished with 17 points, hitting 5 of 7 free throws, all but one of those in the fourth quarter. 

“They had a couple of guys for them who stepped up and made shots,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “They have three key guys we were going to focus on, and they had other guys make shots for them. We’ve had the same thing for us. It’s one of those things.” 

The other to catch Douglas’ eye was Rocky’s last of five reserves. Jahmeir Robinson came on in the fourth quarter and hit a pair of 3-pointers to put the Rocks (15-9, 6-2 WB6) in a position to regain the lead after trailing 43-39 after three quarters. 

“Robinson was on our report,” Douglas noted, “but not one of the top guys.” 

Rock Island coach Thom Sigel, though, talked all about Voss in his postgame accolades. 

“It’s nice to see a guy, no matter what his role has been, where he takes the same approach. He’s there to compete, every night, whether it’s in practice or in a game,” Sigel said of Voss. “He set the tone.” 

Voss was rewarded with a career high in points, and was within four of his career-high in rebounds with eight. The free throws? They were right up there in his best of as well. 

“That was all on my teammates,” Voss said. “They found me. I was open, and they did the job of finding me.” 

Voss was extremely tough in the fourth quarter, scoring 10 points and making his last four shots. 

Neither team had a lead of more than four in the first half. Quincy (10-11, 3-4 WB6) went up by five in the third, but Rock Island countered by going up 51-46 midway through the fourth. Rocky led 54-51 with 2:44 remaining, but the Rocks closed it out with free throws from Voss and JaMir Price (11 points). 

The Blue Devils, with a shorthanded bench because of injury and illness, played only six players, and had three of those play all 32 minutes. Brady Rupert came in for a couple of brief spurts to give Jeremiah Talton (12 points) and Reis a rest. Adonte Crider (17 points), Smith (12 points) and Jirehl Brock (seven rebounds) never got a breather. 

“I could tell we were fatigued late in the third quarter,” Douglas said. “It wasn’t where we normally see it, on the defensive end. We took some plays off offensively. 

“We played really well. We executed the game plan. We were good, we just weren’t good enough.” 

Rock Island outrebounded Quincy 32-17, while Solomon Gustafson also scored in double figures with 10 points, all in the first half. 

Rock Island 60, Quincy 54