Controlling tempo allows QHS boys basketball players to bring ‘Run, Devils, Run’ back to life

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Quincy High School guard Camden Brown pushes the ball up the court in transition during the Blue Devils' 66-36 victory over Springfield on Saturday night in Blue Devil Gym. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — The idea of reprising “Run, Devils, Run” doesn’t necessarily marry with Keshaun Thomas’ strengths, and the 6-foot-6 sophomore forward doesn’t always keep pace with his more fleet-of-foot Quincy High School boys basketball teammates.

“Ahh, it’s hard sometimes,” Thomas said.

Yet, he’s fully in favor of a return to the more fast-paced mantra.

“Yes, of course,” Thomas said. “Let’s get out and go.”

It’s the easiest way to put an opponent on its heels, much the way the state-ranked Blue Devils did to Springfield on Saturday night at Blue Devil Gym. After Thomas scored Quincy’s first two field goals, the Blue Devils used three consecutive transition buckets to finish a 10-1 run that catapulted them to a 66-36 victory.

The pressure the Blue Devils put on the Senators, leading to Springfield coach Joby Crum calling two timeouts in the first five minutes and four timeouts overall in the first half, led to turnovers and the opportunity to run.

Quincy, No. 10 in Class 4A, pieced together a 9-2 run in the second quarter to go ahead 21-8 and closed the half on a 7-2 spurt. The Blue Devils had four transition buckets combined in those two runs.

“That’s been our goal from the start,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said of employing the “Run, Devils, Run” mentality. “In order for us to get out and run, you have to be able to rebound the ball and be consistent there. You have to get defensive stops and be willing to get out and run. We’ve had some opportunities, but we haven’t been as consistent in that area.”

The Blue Devils (14-2) tried to run at every opportunity Saturday night, resulting in a 30-12 halftime advantage and the starters being pulled before the end of the third quarter.

“I feel like we’re really good at controlling tempo, regardless of who we are playing,” said junior point guard Ralph Wires, who scored 12 points. “Whether we want to speed it up or slow it down, we’re great at either one. When we speed the game up, we take our game to a whole other level. We’re so good at getting down the floor and being faster than other teams.”

When the Blue Devils played that way during a six-season stretch from 1977-83, they scored 100 or more points in a game seven times. Quincy averaged 73.3 points per game and won three state trophies, including the 1981 Class AA state championship.

It’s how “Run, Devils, Run” came to life.

But had a group of teenagers even heard of a mantra from 40 years ago?

“Not until day because I saw it on the board for the freshman game,” junior forward Candem Brown said. “Really not until today.”

QHS freshman coach Gary Handrick wrote the mantra on the dry-erase board in the locker room before a game in the freshman tournament, and Douglas said he’s written it on the board before as well.

So is it time to truly bring it back?

“I guess so,” said Brown, who led the Blue Devils with 13 points against Springfield. “We’re getting up and down the floor really good and getting into our offensive transition really good, too.”

That only happens when the Blue Devils are energetic defensively. They forced eight first-half turnovers Saturday night and allowed only one offensive rebound on the Senators’ nine missed shots.

“Deflections and defensive stops and finishing the play on the defensive side,” Brown said. “We didn’t play our best game defensively Friday night (in a 62-57 victory over Rock Island), so our main focus was our defensive positioning. We came out and executed.”

It made for a smooth transition to offense.

“If we get steals and we run, that’s easy buckets every single time,” said Thomas, who finished with 10 points.

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