COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — Sam Mulherin understands good things happen if you put yourself in the right position.
Necessary things happen, too.
Mulherin’s energetic pursuit of offensive rebounds helped the Quincy High School boys basketball team shake its first-half slumber and ignited a 31-point third quarter against Belleville Althoff on Monday afternoon at Vergil Fletcher Gym.
The end result was a 73-54 victory in the opening round of the 37th Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic that showcased what the Blue Devils are capable of when they are engaged. It also showed how pedestrian they can be when they lack defensive intensity.
It’s why a one-point halftime lead felt more like a monumental deficit.
“In the locker room, (QHS coach Andy Douglas) was trying to get the energy up and get us going,” said Mulherin, the junior forward who scored six points and grabbed five rebounds. “I feel like he accomplished that, and we came out firing in all sorts of areas.”
The goal is for that to continue Tuesday.
The Blue Devils (10-1) advance to face Lincoln (10-0) in the quarterfinals at 11:30 a.m. The winner earns a spot in the semifinals at 6:30 p.m. The Railsplitters beat Alton 35-17 in their opening, setting a tournament record for the fewest points allowed.
“They have a nice big dude down low who was putting up buckets,” Mulherin said of Lincoln’s 6-foot-5 junior forward Payton Cook. “I feel as long as we get aggressive with him and we contest his jump shot we should be good. Their guards can hit jump shots, too, so we have to challenge them.”
Above all, the Blue Devils can’t have any lackluster first half.
“Energy is our thing,” Mulherin said.
Mulherin supplied that when it was lacking against the Crusaders.
The Blue Devils trailed 6-0 out of the gate and didn’t score for the first four minutes, but rebounded enough to take a 22-18 lead with 4:15 remaining in the first half. Then came another drought — one basket in a six-possession span — that allowed the Crusaders to go up 25-24 with a minute to play.
A turnover with 33 seconds left gave the Blue Devils possession and led to a breakout. However, Dominique Clay’s layup attempt from the left side fell off the rim, but Mulherin gathered the rebound, made the putback with 22.2 seconds to go and sent the Blue Devils to the locker room ahead 26-25.
“It was a huge play,” Douglas said. “He kickstarted everything.”
Quincy turned the ball over to start the second half, but on the ensuing possession, Mulherin put himself in the right spot again. Bradley Longcor III missed a shot driving hard from the right wing, but Mulherin collected the offensive rebound and made the putback.
It started a run in which the Blue Devils scored on 12 of 13 possessions.
“We were just locked in,” Mulherin said. “I was running the court like the coaches tell me to do.”
That made the Althoff defense take note of him.
“We didn’t get him the ball enough in transition,” Douglas said. “But the fact he ran the floor and got to the paint was enough for guys to sink in on him a little bit and allow our guys to get open for looks on the perimeter.”
Quincy made five 3-pointers in the third quarter, went 10 of 13 from the field overall in the period and closed it on a 20-4 run. Jeremiah Talton scored 12 of his game-high 26 points in the third quarter, going 4 of 4 from the free-throw line in the frame and 8 of 8 overall.
“Halftime was a reset for us,” Talton said. “We should have come out in the first half and played with more energy. We had to turn it around, and we did.”
Longcor finished with 15 points, while Reid O’Brien and Ralph Wires each had eight points and combined for five assists as the Blue Devils had 14 assists against just nine turnovers.
“We were able to scout Lincoln a little bit and we’ll put together a game plan,” Douglas said. “We’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”
Miss Clipping Out Stories to Save for Later?
Click the Purchase Story button below to order a print of this story. We will print it for you on matte photo paper to keep forever.Purchase Story