Strong start, tepid finish leaves Blue Devils yearning to play better as tourney path continues

Quincy guard Camden Brown soars towards the basket. Quincy played Alton in a first-round game at the Collinsville Holiday Classic basketball tournament at Collinsville High School in Collinsville, IL on Wednesday December 28, 2022.  
Photo Courtesy Tim Vizer Photography

Quincy High School guard Camden Brown soars towards the basket during the first half of Wednesday’s game against Alton in the first round of the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic at Vergil Fletcher Gym in Collinsville, Ill. | Photo courtesy Tim Vizer Photography

COLLINSVILLE, Ill. — Andy Douglas had a pocket full of excuses if he needed any.

The Quincy High School boys basketball coach refused to let the Blue Devils use them.

A scintillating first half devolved into less-than-ideal execution in the second half Wednesday night in the opening round of the Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic, and although the Blue Devils dispatched Alton 67-41 at Vergil Fletcher Gym, the overall effort wasn’t what Douglas had hoped to see.

“We learned more of what we need to do, which is not a good thing at this point in the season,” Douglas said. “We have to see some growth. While we see it at times, it’s not consistent. That’s the frustrating part right now.”

The Blue Devils hadn’t played since a 60-43 victory over Quincy Notre Dame on December 17, and they were tasked with playing at 9 p.m. Wednesday — the last of eight first-round games with a meager crowd in attendance.

Douglas didn’t want any of that to be a crutch for the lackluster finish.

“We could have made a lot of excuses,” Douglas said. “But being an excuses team is only going to get us losses. It isn’t going to get us where we need to go. Overall, we just have to be better.”

Tied at 7 midway through the first quarter, the Blue Devils ripped off a 7-0 run and then followed a pair of made free throws by the Redbirds with a 14-0 blitz. By then, the lead was 28-9 three minutes into the second quarter. Alton scored only five points the remainder of the half and went to halftime trailing 37-16.

“We were flying around,” Douglas said. “We were playing with energy.”

In the second half, that wasn’t the case.

The Blue Devils scored only seven points in the third quarter, went 3 of 10 from the field and committed seven turnovers. It enabled the Redbirds to draw within 44-30 after scoring the first point of the fourth quarter.

“I thought we got a little too comfortable with a 20-point lead,” Douglas said. “Instead of digging our claws in and going for the jugular, we played around and got away with what got us the lead. Part of that is maturity, which we’re struggling with big time right now. We have to be more consistent and we have to be more mature in situations.”

A 10-2 run pushed the QHS advantage back to 20 points and allowed the Blue Devils to finish with an easy victory. Bradley Longcor III finished with 18 points for QHS, while Keshaun Thomas had a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds.

Camden Brown and Reid O’Brien each also scored 10 points for the Blue Devils, who finished shooting 50 percent from the field and outrebounded the Redbirds 39-20.

Quincy (10-1) will play twice Thursday — the Blue Devils meet Collierville (Tenn.) at 2:30 p.m. and will face either Collinsville or Rockford East in the nightcap.

“It’s another day to improve, another opportunity to get better,” Douglas said.

Collierville, which is making its first tournament appearance, beat Troy Triad 56-47 in its opener behind 15 points from 6-foot-5 senior forward Alex Vandenbergh.

“It’s a team that has some dangerous pieces,” Douglas said. “We have to figure out how to put a complete game together, and that’s going to be our main focus.”

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