Pair of hard-fought victories put Blue Devils in position to play for tournament championship
COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — It has taken the Quincy High School boys basketball team a decade to get back to where it could possibly end what is now a quarter-century drought.
A shot at redemption comes with it, too.
The Blue Devils will play for the championship of the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic for the first time since 2012, earning their spot in the title game by efficiently pulling away from Collierville (Tenn.) for a 62-48 victory in Thursday afternoon’s quarterfinals and outlasting Rockford East 47-41 in the evening semifinals.
It puts Quincy (12-1) in the crosshairs of Decatur MacArthur, the team that upended the Blue Devils 58-53 in overtime in the tournament semifinals a year ago.
“We’re going to come out wanting that revenge for sure,” QHS senior forward Sam Mulherin said. “It’s up to us to go get it.”
The Generals will try to defend their title at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Vergil Fletcher Gym. The 2021 was their second Collinsville crown and first since 1984. The Blue Devils haven’t won a holiday tournament title since 1997 when they won their fourth championship in an eight-year span.
“It’s a tough tournament, and no matter how you look at it, you’re playing good competition,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “You’re playing a tough schedule with two games in a day and not a whole lot of rest time in between. It’s not an easy thing to do.”
The weariness of playing three games in a 24-hour span showed.
The Blue Devils opened their semifinal matchup by going 3 of 14 from the field in the first quarter and eventually falling behind the E-Rabs 14-9 with 5:40 remaining in the second quarter. Camden Brown’s 3-pointer from the left corner with 5:14 to go changed everything.
Quincy went on a 15-4 run to close the half, forcing Rockford East into six turnovers and making 5 of 11 shots in the stretch. Sophomore forward Keshaun Thomas had seven of Quincy’s points in that span.
“That was massive,” Douglas said of the run. “I thought we did a really good job of cleaning up the glass to where we didn’t give those guys second chances and second looks at the basket. We were able to execute and knock down some shots.”
Staying confident was crucial.
“Knowing our shots were eventually going to fall was key,” said Brown, who led the Blue Devils with 12 points. “We had to keep our defensive energy. It wasn’t the best in the first quarter, but we picked it up in the second quarter.”
Staying engaged defensively allowed the Blue Devils to weather tough stretches.
Quincy led 32-23 with 4:14 remaining in the third quarter, but went five consecutive possessions and more than four minutes without scoring. Yet, after Bradley Longcor III drained a 16-foot jumper with four seconds left in the quarter, the Blue Devils took a 34-31 lead to the final stanza.
Rockford East failed to score on its first six possessions of the fourth quarter as Quincy pushed the lead back to nine.
“Our shots aren’t always going to fall,” Brown said. “So we always have to have great energy on the defensive side.”
Brown led the Blue Devils with 12 points, while Longcor had 10 and Thomas had eight points and 11 rebounds. Mulherin had seven points and eight rebounds off the bench.
“We came out with a lot of energy and a lot of intensity because we want to win this year,” Mulherin said.
That was clearly the case in the quarterfinals when the Blue Devils limited the Dragons to nine points in the first quarter and 1-of-6 shooting from 3-point range in the first half. Collierville shot just 33.3 percent from 3-point range overall and committed 22 turnovers.
Meanwhile, Quincy went 4 of 7 from 3-point range in the first half and was salty at the free-throw line, going 11 of 14. Longcor scored a game-high 22 points to go with eight rebounds and four assists, while Thomas had 12 points, Ralph Wires 11 and Brown 10.
“Our energy was great, from our bench to our guys on the floor,” Douglas said.
It will have to stay that way to topple Decatur MacArthur.
“We have to come out with a lot of energy on the defensive side and execute on offense,” Brown said. “Play how we usually play.”
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