‘We have to do us’: Blue Devils overcome lackluster first half against Bulldogs with game-clinching run
QUINCY — The chatter, the comparisons and the hype the state-ranked Quincy High School boys basketball team continues creating could be a detriment if the Blue Devils allow those things to infiltrate the team-first mentality.
“If we just do us, the best in us will come out,” sophomore guard Bradley Longcor III said.
When the Blue Devils played like themselves Saturday night — aggressive on defense, opportunistic on offense, always looking to attack — something good did come out of what was looking like a lackluster performance.
Quincy held Batavia to one field goal and four points over the game’s final five minutes and went on an 18-4 run to finish off a 49-35 victory at Blue Devil Gym.
Sitting 7-0 and ranked ninth in the Class 4A state poll, the Blue Devils face a gauntlet of a week ahead — traveling to Webster Groves (Mo.) on Tuesday, road tripping to No. 2-ranked Moline on Friday and playing host to Quincy Notre Dame in the crosstown showdown on Saturday.
“We have to keep the energy in practice that we had the second half of this game,” said Longcor, who scored a game-high 22 points. “We just have to get better every day.”
He reiterated the Blue Devils simply need to be themselves.
“We have to do us,” Longcor said. “No matter what.”
Sophomore guard Dominique Clay echoed that.
“We just have to be ready to play,” said Clay, who made two of Quincy’s three field goals in the closing stretch and finished with 11 points. “We have to be ready to go. It’s as simple as that. We just have to be us.”
For a few minutes at least, the Blue Devils were what everyone expects them to be.
Longcor scored Quincy’s first eight points — a three-point play, a 3-pointer and a right-handed finish on a drive — in building an 8-2 lead in the first four minutes. However, by halftime, Batavia had pulled within 17-15.
“Every opportunity is a learning opportunity, and we faced a couple of those this weekend,” said QHS coach Andy Douglas, whose team fought through rough patches in a 62-52 victory over Sterling on Friday night. “Batavia’s tough. They’re extremely tough. They may not have the talent that we have, but the toughness is definitely there. They showed that.
“For our group, we have to learn to be a little more like those groups. We’ve seen it from our guys, and we saw it at times tonight. We played a real flat first half and first part of the third quarter. Then all of a sudden, defensively the light switch turns on and we decided to guard.”
Still, it was only a three-point game before Clay buried a 3-pointer from the right corner as time expired in the third quarter, giving the Blue Devils a 30-24 edge.
“We really needed that,” Longcor said. “It got the bench hyped up. It got the fans hyped up. It got us going.”
Batavia (2-6) didn’t flinch. When Bulldogs forward CJ Valente knocked down a 14-foot jumper from the high post with five minutes remaining in regulation, the game was tied at 31.
The Blue Devils proceeded to score on nine of their last 10 possessions, while holding the Bulldogs to one field goal and one free throw over their final 10 possessions. Quincy went 11 of 12 from the free-throw line in the closing stretch.
Longcor went 4 for 4 from the line in that run and 8 of 8 overall in the second half. He also knocked down a step-back 3-pointer from the right wing with 2:45 to play that put Quincy ahead 40-34.
“He’s a playmaker,” Douglas said. “We have a lot of faith with him with the ball in his hands to make plays. He wants the pressure on him. He was that way again tonight.”
Valente led the Bulldogs with 10 points.
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