By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig
QUINCY — Coming oh-so-close finally gave way to getting over the hump.
It happened on a night when the Quincy High School boys basketball team easily could have given in to all the adversity it faced.
Instead, the Blue Devils erased Galesburg’s advantage inside with tenacity and physical play on defense, leading to a 62-56 Western Big Six Conference victory at Blue Devil Gym that marked the first time this season they’ve won a teeter-totter affair.
“Maturity was the key,” QHS coach Andy Douglas said. “The character they showed is what we need.”
It was put to the test before the Blue Devils (7-9, 2-2 WB6) took the floor.
They knew they would be playing without senior guard Jirehl Brock, who is in Hawaii to participate in the Polynesian Bowl all-star football game. Earlier this week, Quincy also lost junior reserve forward Zarious Smith-Palmer for the remainder of the season because of a violation of team rules.
Couple that with getting outrebounded 20-12 in the first half and trailing 26-24 at halftime after seeing an eight-point lead evaporate, and it was a recipe for disaster.
“We knew we were down a couple of assets that we needed, but we had guys play their hearts out,” Quincy senior guard Jaeden Smith said.
“Nobody was scared out there.”
The Blue Devils’ resolve showed.
They were down 36-32 after going six scoreless times in a seven-possession stretch of the third quarter, but they held Galesburg to two field goals over an eight-possession stretch and took a 42-39 lead with a little more than six minutes remaining in regulation.
The Silver Streaks (11-8, 1-4 WB6) shot just 40.8 percent from the field.
“They played through contact, and we shied away from contact,” Galesburg coach Mike Reynolds said. “If you shy away from contact in a Big 6 game, this is what happens. They made winning plays down the stretch.
“We missed shots like we would in practice with somebody banging a pad on us in practice. We couldn’t play through contact. That’s a good way to get beat on the road.”
It didn’t help that the Silver Streaks squandered their advantage on the boards.
Galesburg had seven offensive rebounds and seven second-chance points in the first half, while the Blue Devils had only one offensive rebound.
In the second half, though, the Blue Devils outrebounded the Silver Streaks by three, grabbed seven offensive boards and had eight second-chance points.
“They were killing us on the glass,” Douglas said. “We were slow getting to them a couple times. A couple times they weren’t even getting hit. So we challenged their toughness at halftime, and they responded.”
The most important offensive board didn’t lead to any second-chance points, but it was part of the most pivotal sequence of the fourth quarter.
Quincy guard Adonte Crider rebounded his own miss and was fouled charging back into the lane. He missed the front end of the 1-and-1, but made amends with a steal on Galesburg’s ensuing possession and feeding Lucas Reis for a layup. Crider stole a pass on the next possession and scored a layup in transition for a 50-44 lead that forced Reynolds to call a timeout with 3:08 to go.
“Coach always tells me when something goes bad to maintain your character,” Crider said. “If something goes bad, turn it into something good. I kept my composure and gave my guys everything I had.”
Crider finished with 13 points, nine in the fourth quarter.
“We need him to be a key guy for us, whether he’s scoring or not,” Douglas said. “He has to make plays on the defensive end.”
The Blue Devils salted the victory away by making 10 of 14 free throws in the final 1:33. Smith made 10 of 11 overall and 7 of 8 in the fourth quarter, finishing with a season-high 27 points.
“We work on free throws every day in practice,” Smith said. “We know who are good free throw shooters are, and we got them the ball.”
They made it in the victory column for the first time in 2019.
“We needed it,” Crider said. “We needed something positive to build from.”
Quincy 62, Galesburg 56