Everyone in: Hawks seize opportunity to give bench players needed experience in lopsided win

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Quincy University senior guard Nate Shockey brings the ball up the floor during Wednesday night's game against Hannibal-LaGrange at Pepsi Arena. | Photo courtesy Denny Sinnock, QU Athletics

QUINCY — The early-season schedule is giving the Quincy University men’s basketball team the opportunity to gain the one thing it lacks — experience.

All 13 available players logged double-figure minutes Wednesday night as the Hawks overcame a sluggish start to cruise to a 92-39 victory over Hannibal-LaGrange University in their home opener in Pepsi Arena.

After spotting the visitors an early 12-5 lead, QU parlayed its quickness and deep bench to wear down and outscore HLGU 37-9 over the final 14 minutes of the first half to take control and improve its record to 2-1.

It was the Hawks’ 18th consecutive victory in the series since 2003 and came after they split two games last weekend in the GLVC/G-MAC Crossover Challenge at Truman State University.

“Sometimes people question why you play games like this,” QU coach Steve Hawkins said. “HLGU was outmanned and had a couple of players hurt, too, but we were able to get all of our guys important minutes.

“There’s no way around it, we are a very, very inexperienced team. As I told them in the locker room, ‘If there was a way I could magically tap each of you on the head and say that you’re experienced, I would be happy to do it. But we have to throw you out there and let you make mistakes and learn from them.’ ”

Zion Richardson scored a game-high 21 points and fellow senior Nate Shockey came off the bench to net 11, but it was the play of several freshmen that enabled the Hawks to clamp down on defense and jump-start their transition game.

Jake Hamilton entered the game with the first wave of reserves and immediately scored a transition layup and then assisted on two fast-break layups by John Kelly III. Three-pointers by Kelly, Shockey and Anthony McGee, another freshman, sent QU on a 27-3 run that put it firmly in control.

Kelly, a 6-foot-6 freshman from New Orleans, scored all 11 of his points in the first half. Hamilton, a 6-foot-4 freshman from Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin, finished with 10 points, nine rebounds and three assists in nearly 23 minutes.

“For me and the other freshmen to get out there and get our feet under ourselves and get a little experience on this court, to feel what it’s like, it was very nice,” said Hamilton, who helped Sacred Heart-Griffin capture the Class 3A state championship in 2022.

“I’ve played in a lot of tough basketball games. This is a different level, a faster pace with bigger guys, so it’s going to take some adjusting. I think I’m already starting to get there.”

Twelve Hawks reached the scoring column and their bench outscored HLGU 55-17. After netting three early 3-pointers — two by Janssen Flotow and one by Chris Cross — to jump out in front, the Trojans managed just one more.

“The second people off the bench, we’re gonna bring energy no matter what,” said Kelly, who played nearly 17 minutes. “We had two tough games (a loss to Cedarville and a win over Findlay). This was a game we were supposed to win, and we did.”

QU shot nearly 51 percent from the field and made 11 of 28 tries from 3-point range after a slow start, with Richardson and Shockey hitting three apiece. The Hawks had a 48-24 rebounding edge, scored 23 points off turnovers and outscored the Trojans 25-3 on fast-break points.

Orlando Thomas scored all nine of his points in the opening minutes of the second half. He teamed up with Richardson to account for QU’s first 18 points of the half to stretch a 21-point lead to 36. The Hawks’ biggest advantage was 55 points.

Khalib Becton led HLGU (2-3) with 12 points.

QU now hits the road to play Grand Valley State, which has won five of the last six games in the series, on Saturday and Lake Superior State on Monday. The Hawks return home to face Judson University on Nov. 25.

“We’re gonna have a nine- or 10-man rotation, just like 25 years ago,” Hawkins said. “We’re gonna play a lot of guys and get up and down the court. You can’t play the way we plan on playing with just seven guys over the course of 30 games, so getting everybody minutes was big for us.”

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