Strong closing kick pushes Blue Devils to victory in WB6 opener

Rock Island Alleman’s Cyrus Pendelton, left, and Quincy’s Garrett Gadeke dive for a loose ball rebound in the first quarter Friday at Blue Devil Gym in Quincy. | H-W Photo/Michael Kipley

By Matt Schuckman Herald-Whig

Posted: Dec. 3, 2016 12:01 am Updated: Dec. 3, 2016 2:24 am

QUINCY — It’s a tried and true adage. If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.

The Quincy High School boys basketball team found itself subscribing to that theory with the outcome of Friday night’s Western Big Six Conference opener against Rock Island Alleman hanging in the balance.

The Blue Devils, who led 46-40 with four minutes remaining in regulation, scored off just one of their first 11 offensive rebounds. That was before Garrett Gadeke tipped in a miss while being undercut by an Alleman defender and then put back Jaeden Smith’s missed 3-pointer on the following possession, kickstarting a 13-0 run that put away a 62-44 victory at Blue Devil Gym.

“The shots we took were quality shots,” Gadeke said. “You just have to crash the boards and make a play.”

It was needed more than ever after the Pioneers whittled a 15-point deficit down to six with a barrage of 3-pointers.

The Blue Devils (4-0, 1-0 WB6) led 36-21 with two minutes to play in the third quarter before Alleman made three consecutive 3-pointers — two by Collin O’Keeffe — and closed the quarter on a 10-2 run. Gadeke seemed to changed the momentum by converting a three-point play on the first possession of the fourth quarter, but Alleman’s Andrew Barrett answered with a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

Three minutes later, back-to-back putbacks by the Pioneers (3-3, 0-1 WB6) closed the gap to six points.

“It was tough to pull away,” said Quincy coach Andy Douglas, whose team scored 11 of its 15 second-chance points in the fourth quarter. “They did a good job of getting shots by moving the ball around. Their ball movement around the perimeter was great. They set screens in the right spots. They executed their game plan really well.

“It forced us to show some mental toughness.”

It started with taking advantage of an Alleman mistake.

With 3:43 to play, Quincy’s Aaron Shoot rolled off a screen and drained a 3-pointer from the right wing. During the shot, Alleman was whistled for a foul for running through Jirehl Brock’s screen and knocking him to the floor.

It allowed Quincy to maintain possession, which led to Gadeke crashing the middle of the lane and flipping the ball back to the rim with his right hand despite being dragged to the ground.

“You have to hopefully have the ball fall your way,” said Gadeke, who scored eight of his 12 points in the fourth quarter. “You have to get a couple of lucky bounces on offensive rebounds and putbacks. It worked out for us.”

Alleman, which lost its 32nd straight conference game, didn’t have an answer.

A long rebound off a missed 3-pointer turned into a dunk in transition by Parker Bland, and he powered his way to the rim for a three-point play on the next possession to make it 59-40 with 1:52 to go.

“When it comes down to the final few minutes, that’s where you put every ounce of energy left into making a play,” said Bland, who led the Blue Devils with 19 points.

That was the case across the board.

The Blue Devils finished with four players in double figures as sophomore guard Jirehl Brock scored a career-high 15 points, making 3 of 4 3-pointers to go along with seven rebounds and five steals. Shoot added 11 points, hitting 3 of 5 3-pointers.

Quincy failed to shoot 50 percent from the field for the first time this season, going 23 of 51 (45.1 percent), but the grit to outrebound Alleman 30-22 and force 22 turnovers made up for the offensive struggles.

“Our mental toughness was great,” Douglas said. “We had random guys step up in the toughest parts of the game. That’s what you need from an experienced, veteran team.”