Chartering a new course: Victory over nationally respected Imhotep could vault QHS to No. 1 in state poll
QUINCY — The loudest statement in front of the loudest crowd could have the loudest impact.
The Quincy High School boys basketball team may find itself as the No. 1-ranked team in Illinois this coming week.
Toppling a team with a nationally respected resume like Imhotep Charter Prep could do that.
Playing with the most tenaciousness and toughness they’ve shown all season, the Blue Devils didn’t back down Saturday night from a team with nine Pennsylvania state championships and 11 Philadelphia city championships in the past two decades whose star guard has signed with UConn, the No. 1 team in college basketball.
Quincy opened the game with back-to-back 3-pointers, took the lead for good when Ralph Wires and Bradley Longcor III hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the closing minutes of the first half and pulled away for a 74-62 victory in the marquee game of the Quincy Shootout in Blue Devil Gym.
“That gets our name out there,” Quincy junior forward Keshaun Thomas said. “There were people saying, ‘Oh, where’s Quincy?’ or ‘Quincy’s just a small-town team.’ We wanted to show people what we’re made of and how hard we work and tough we can be.”
The Blue Devils (19-1) did that and more.
They showed efficiency on offense, shooting 61.1 percent from the field and 56.3 percent from 3-point range with 12 assists on 22 field goals. They buckled down defensively, holding Imhotep Charter 38.5 percent shooting from the field and forcing 11 turnovers. And they cleared 24 defensive rebounds while limiting the Panthers to six second-chance points.
“This gives us a lot of confidence,” said Longcor, named the game MVP after scoring 21 points with three assists and going 4 of 7 from 3-point range. “But we know as a team we have to stay level-headed. We can’t get too high or too low. We have to continue to come to practice and work hard.”
It’s the only way to validate this effort.
Although the Blue Devils are penciled into the marquee time slot of the Quincy Shootout, much of the chatter and anticipation centers around the nationally respected programs — Link Academy, Wasatch Academy, Imhotep, etc. — that come in ready to put on a show.
The Blue Devils wanted to prove they shouldn’t be overlooked.
“They were extremely motivated tonight,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “Walking around here during the Shootout and hearing some of the responses and comments, which were more or less ‘Just make it close’ or ‘Just don’t get blown out and you’ll learn a lesson,’ that irritated them.
“When we step on the floor, we know we have a chance to win. It’s not blind faith. We know what we have. This was a great test for us, and it answered every question.”
The only question that remains is will it catapult the Blue Devils to the top of the Associated Press Class 4A state poll.
Quincy entered the week third in Class 4A behind Homewood-Flossmoor and Chicago Curie. Homewood-Flossmoor (19-1) won a pair of games over the weekend, including a victory over Downers Grove North in the “When Sides Collide” Shootout at Lisle Benet. Curie won both of its games in the Quincy Shootout, beating Columbia (Mo.) Father Tolton 58-55 Saturday.
The Blue Devils’ victory resonated louder, at least for the moment.
“Getting to state is our goal,” Wires said. “That motivates us, not the rankings.”
Wires’ defense will play a part in making that possible.
Tasked with defending Imhotep guard Ahmad Nowell, Wires made life difficult for the UConn-bound scorer. Nowell went 5 of 16 from the field and committed four turnovers.
Nowell spent the final four minutes of the second quarter on the bench with three fouls, which allowed the Blue Devils to go on an 8-4 run to close the half. Imhotep made it a one-possession game six times in the third quarter, but the Panthers never took the lead.
Quincy scored six of the first eight points of the fourth quarter to go up by nine and never was threatened thereafter.
Thomas finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, while Wires had 11 points and three steals. Nowell finished with 19 points, but he went 5 of 16 from the field and committed four turnovers.
“That was a very rough and tough game,” Thomas said. “We knew coming in they were very physical, and we had to match their physicality and be more physical than them.”
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