Improvisational skills: Wires sets up Thomas for game-winning basket on busted play as Blue Devils find way to survive

Play Video

EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — It wasn’t exactly how the Quincy High School boys basketball team drew up the final seconds of the Class 4A Edwardsville Regional semifinal against Alton, but it worked.

Ralph Wires found a wide-open Keshaun Thomas in the post for the go-ahead basket with 1.8 seconds remaining in regulation to send the second-seeded Blue Devils to a 48-47 victory over the sixth-seeded Redbirds on Wednesday night inside Lucco-Jackson Gymnasium.

“It was a busted play,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “Ralph has a tendency to make plays, and he made the biggest one.”

Alton’s inbounds pass was stolen at midcourt by Quincy’s Camden Brown to seal the victory.

The state’s fifth-ranked Blue Devils (29-3) advance to play the third-seeded O’Fallon Panthers (21-10) at 7 p.m. Friday in the regional championship game. O’Fallon advanced with a 63-54 win over fifth-seeded Edwardsville.

“Alton did a really good job of dictating the tempo of the game. It wasn’t the prettiest game on our end, for sure,” Douglas said. “It was ugly offensively and defensively at times. In postseason play, you have to win ugly ones. I give our guys the tip of the hat for being able to pull it out.”

Alton ends its season at 17-15.

The Redbirds, who won a combined 10 games over the previous three seasons, had their first winning season since going 23-10 in 2018-19.

“It seems like we’ve been almost one play short every game,” said Alton coach Dylan Dudley, whose team lost to top-seeded Collinsville 47-46 in last week’s regular-season finale. “It’s a heartbreaker, indeed. They made a good play. They stuck with it. Our kids stuck with it. They made one more play than we did.”

That one play came with the Blue Devils trailing 47-46 with the ball after Wires stole an inbounds pass with 25 seconds left.

Out of a timeout, Wires worked around the perimeter before eventually finding Thomas alone in the paint with time running down. Thomas turned and put in an uncontested basket for the 48-47 lead with 1.8 seconds left.

“We originally wanted Bradley (Longcor III) to drive …  but he couldn’t drive. After that, (Wires) wanted a screen and set it for him,” Thomas said. “My defender got lost and I was able to go in for a layup. I didn’t even know where I was (when I got the ball). I had to turn and put it up. I didn’t know how much time was left.”

Despite time running down, Douglas had all the trust in Wires with the ball.

“Ralph has done a really job of knowing the clock — everybody does. They all knew the time and score and knew what we wanted to get,” Douglas said. “It wasn’t there. (Alton) did a really good job of taking it away. We wanted to go ball screen action in the end and we got something off of it. It wasn’t how we drew it up, but we’ll take it.”

Thomas’ basket was the 10th lead change of the fourth quarter and 18th of the game.

“We had a good feel for what they were going to do. Andy does a hell of a job and they are a hell of a team. Their program speaks for itself,” Dudley said. “Usually in late game situations, it’s a busted play or offensive rebound and kick out. The busted play got us.”

Alton enjoyed the biggest lead of the first half when it went ahead 18-11 after Kobe Taylor knocked down two free throws following a 3-pointer from Semaj Stampley to open the second quarter.

Quincy rallied, using a 7-0 run to tie it at 18 on Dom Clay’s putback with 3:04 left in the half. The teams traded the lead three times before a traditional three-point play and 3-pointer from Longcor put the Blue Devils ahead 26-22 at halftime.

Quincy’s lead never grew larger than four points in the third. Despite two lead changes in the last 40 seconds, the Blue Devils led 37-36 going into the fourth thanks to a late basket by Brown.

In the fourth, it was back and forth the entire eight minutes with the teams alternating scoring.

Four of the lead changes came in the final 90 seconds, starting with Alton going ahead 44-43 on a basket in transition by Hassani Elliott.

Quincy jumped back in front on Brown’s putback, making it 45-44 with 1:02 left, but Alton regained a 47-45 lead when Stampley connected on a 3-pointer in the corner with 47 seconds left.

The Blue Devils cut the deficit to 47-46 on a free throw from Longcor with 25 seconds left. The Redbirds grabbed the rebound on the missed second attempt and called timeout.

On the ensuing inbounds pass, Wires intercepted the ball to set up the final 25 seconds.

“The guys kept battling even when things weren’t going our way offensively. It wasn’t a clean game. They kept their heads,” Douglas said. “This is one we have to clean up a lot before Friday.”

It was heartbreak for the Redbirds, who dropped to 2-8 in one-possession games. Their last five losses of the season came by a combined 10 points.

“I told the kids we didn’t win the game we wanted to win and didn’t win the trophy we wanted to win, but the kids put Alton basketball back on the map. They’ve done everything we’ve asked them to do,” Dudley said. “I’m sad we don’t get to go to practice tomorrow. That’s what hurts.”

Stampley led all scorers with 23 points, while Elliott had 11 points and Taylor had nine points.

Alton was 16-of-31 shooting from the field with eight turnovers.

Quincy was led by Thomas with 12 points. Clay added 11 points, while Brown had nine points and Longcor had eight points.

The Blue Devils were 19-of-35 shooting from the field with 15 turnovers.

Friday’s regional championship will be the second meeting of the season between Quincy and O’Fallon. The Blue Devils defeated the Panthers 57-46 during the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic. It also will be the third postseason matchup in as many seasons. Quincy won 56-49 in 2022 and O’Fallon won 64-35 in 2023.

“This regional is loaded,” Thomas said. “It’s the most loaded one in the state. You don’t get an easy game. It’s not like back when we had the two-class system. This was one of the toughest first-round games we’ve had.”

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.

Related Articles