By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
There are times Quincy High School boys basketball coach Sean Taylor takes the classroom to the court.
When he does, he likes to use Larry Bird as a reference point.
It seems to work.
“He brings up the Bird quote where he walked in for the (All-Star Game) 3-point contest and says, ‘Who’s playing for second?'” Quincy point guard Martin Kvitle said. “That’s the way we’re going to play.”
Friday night, it’s exactly how the Blue Devils came out of the locker room to start the second half.
Quincy opened the third quarter on a 12-2 run, getting eight straight points from Kvitle and riding the momentum to a 62-52 Western Big Six Conference victory over United Township at Blue Devil Gym.
“We’re going to come into every game thinking, ‘You’re going to lose,'” said Kvitle, who went 10 of 17 from the field and scored a game-high 24 points. “We know it’s not going to come just by coming in and showing up. We’re going to have to play hard and blue collar. Everybody has the confidence.”
They put it on display.
The Blue Devils (14-4, 6-0 WB6) enjoyed one of the best offensive nights of the season, shooting 57.1 percent from the field (24 of 42) and 54.5 percent from 3-point range (6 of 11).
“I think they came out with focus,” said Taylor, who got 12 points from Zach Burry and 10 points from Mason Fairley. “We got off to good start. (UT) played physical, and we didn’t cowtow to them. We took it back at them and got some easy ones from it. I think we just played with a lot of confidence.”
That could carry Quincy to the WB6 crown.
With Moline beating Galesburg 57-56 as the Maroons’ Derrick Stabler split a pair of free throws with 1.2 seconds remaining, the Blue Devils now own a two-game lead over both the Silver Streaks and Rock Island with four games remaining.
Quincy travels to Galesburg next week with the chance to conceivably knock the Silver Streaks out of the WB6 race.
“More than any team we’ve had in the past, we all play for one another,” Kvitle said. “Because of that, we’ll be good. We can’t get ahead of ourselves. There’s a lot of basketball left. But we’ll play as a team and give ourselves a chance.”
United Township coach Marc Polite believes the same thing about the Panthers.
Keegan Wenskunas and Evan Spurgetis came off the bench to combine for four 3-pointers — Wenskunas made three of them — in the first half as UT led until Fairley buried a 3-pointer from about 30 feet at the first-quarter buzzer.
Although they trailed by as many as seven points in the second quarter, the Panthers (3-17, 1-5) made a push to get within four points at halftime. Sophomore guard Trevor May, who spent much of the first half on the bench with two fouls, scored five points in the final 51 seconds to make it a 32-28 game.
“I thought we played well,” said Polite, who got four 3-pointers and 14 points from Raymond Terronez. “We definitely had some things we needed to address (at halftime), but I thought we had given ourselves a chance.”
Quincy took that away.
The Blue Devils’ opening salvo of the third quarter featured five points coming off Panthers’ turnovers as UT committed six miscues in the quarter and 18 overall.
“I just thought we had some struggles taking care of the basketball,” Polite said. “We had some stretches where we threw it around the gym a little bit.”
Quincy took advantage, making its first five shots and going 9 of 11 from the field overall in the third quarter.
“We had a pretty good flow,” Taylor said.
It helps when confidence soars.
“You have to shoot it to make it, not shoot it not to miss,” Kvitle said. “You have to know it’s going in. There are sometimes you feel that way after you make a couple.”
It’s a feeling the Blue Devils hope lingers.