Energy shift goes against Blue Devils as Generals repeat as tourney champions at Collinsville

Quincy guard Ralph Wires chases a loose ball headed out of bounds during Friday’s championship game with Decatur MacArthur in the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic at Vergil Fletcher Gym in Collinsville, Ill.

Quincy High School guard Ralph Wires tries to corral a loose ball during Friday's championship game of the 38th Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic against Decatur MacArthur at Vergil Fletcher Gym in Collinsville, Ill. | Photo courtesy Tim Vizer Photography

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — The most unfortunate thing to happen to the Quincy High School boys basketball team Friday night was for time to run out in the first quarter.

The brief interlude between quarters was exactly what Decatur MacArthur needed.

The Blue Devils opened the championship game of the 38th Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic by scoring 12 of the first 14 points and led 16-4 after Dominique Clay capped the eight-minute span by driving down the middle of lane for a layin just before the buzzer.

“The first eight minutes we came with energy,” Quincy sophomore guard Bradley Longcor III said. “After that, we didn’t.”

The Generals opened the second quarter on a 10-2 run, scored 20 points in the second eight-minute span and used the momentum it created to propel them to a 57-53 and back-to-back tournament championships at Vergil Fletcher Gym.

“We didn’t match their energy when we came back out in the second quarter,” Quincy junior guard Camden Brown said. “We had energy in the first quarter. We didn’t in the second quarter.”

It was needed to match the run the Blue Devils (12-2) were warned was coming.

“If you thought for a second it was going to be a 10- or 12-point game the whole game against a team like this, you’re in for a shock,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “We talked in the pregame how it would be a game of runs, and we didn’t fully answer their run.

“It came down to little things. Toughness and all those things matter, and we gave too many possessions away.”

That wasn’t just on the offensive end either.

The Blue Devils went 7 of 13 from the field with four assists and no turnovers in the first quarter, but shot just 36.7 percent thereafter with 11 turnovers. Making matters worse were the extra possessions the Generals generated with their offensive rebounding.

Quincy allowed MacArthur (14-0) to pull down 17 offensive rebounds which resulted in 18 second-chance points. Never did that loom larger than with 6.1 seconds remaining in regulation and the Blue Devils trailing by two points.

The Generals’ Azarion Richardson missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but he crashed the glass, pulled the offensive rebound out of a scrum and was fouled. He stepped back to the free-throw line and made both attempts to seal the victory with three seconds remaining.

“The fewer possessions you have that add up, the chance of you winning dwindles away,” Douglas said.

The Blue Devils know how to change that on the boards, where they were outrebounded 41-29 overall.

“It’s about being physical and not being as soft as we were this game,” Brown said.

The same applies to how they handle pressure. Following the first quarter, the Generals employed full-court pressure which led to empty possessions eight of the first nine times the Blue Devils had the ball in the second quarter.

Over the final three quarters, Quincy had 21 empty possessions, including seven consecutive in the third quarter when a four-point lead morphed into a five-point deficit over a 5 minute, 20 second span.

“Stay cool,” said Longcor, who finished with nine points and six assists and was named to the all-tournament team. “We know we can handle the ball under pressure. We’ve done it enough times. Stay cool in situations like that. We know how to do it and we know we can.”

That includes being more physical, too.

“Be stronger with the ball and be more assertive with the ball,” said Brown, who led the Blue Devils with 12 points. “We want to go at the pressure. We never want the pressure to come to us because we want to make them scramble.”

Although disappointment was heavy after the loss, the Blue Devils believe they can glean positives from the setback.

“We fought all the way through to the final buzzer,” Brown said. “We know what we have to work on now.”

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