‘We turned it up’: Second-half defensive lockdown gives Blue Devils edge over Raiders in crosstown showdown

QUINCY — A simple suggestion is all it took.

Needing to inject more life into his team — Quincy High School led Quincy Notre Dame 29-23 at halftime of Saturday night’s boys basketball showdown but had been rather lackluster defensively the first 16 minutes — Blue Devils coach Andy Douglas listened to an idea assistant coach Bruce Bonness pitched during the locker room break.

And he liked it.

“Coach Bonness was like, ‘What do you think about this? You don’t have to, but what do you think about trying some man-to-man defense?’” Douglas said. “Our goal was to pressure the guards as much as we could and be able to read some passes off the ball. It ended up working out great for us.”

It discombobulated the Raiders for an eight-minute stretch.

The Blue Devils allowed one field goal in the third quarter, forcing the Raiders to go 1 of 8 from the field and commit four turnovers as the six-point lead grew to a 16-point advantage. That was enough to allow QHS, ranked ninth in Class 4A, to salt away a 60-43 victory at Blue Devil Gym.

“Our aggression going into the second half was the difference,” QHS sophomore point guard Bradley Longcor III said. “Coach gave us a talk at halftime and said we have to be more aggressive, we have to be some dogs. We did that more in the second half.”

It’s because they finally pushed Friday night’s 12-point loss to Moline aside.

“We weren’t ready to play,” QHS sophomore forward Keshaun Thomas said. “We had just come off our first loss, and I think that hit us at first. But when we came into the second half, we turned it up. We were getting rebounds, playing defense and doing everything we needed to do.”

Fighting to rebound from a pair of lackluster performances, QND gave itself hope by making six of its first seven shots and shooting 45.5 percent from the field in the first half. However, the third quarter once again was its undoing.

The Raiders (4-4) have been outscored 45-20 in the third quarter combined in their three straight losses.

“We’re going to have to work on bringing some more fire and energy into it and prevent teams from going on that run in the third quarter,” QND senior point guard Jake Hoyt said.

Bringing more fire and energy from the start was a win in itself Saturday night.

Hoyt opened the game by curling through the lane and to the right corner, where he knocked down a 3-pointer just 23 seconds into the game. It was the first of four consecutive makes to start the game.

“Seeing that ball go right through the net when we ran a special and Jake knocked down that three took a lot of weight off their shoulders,” QND coach Kevin Meyer said. “It just let them go compete, and they played hard.”

The Raiders led a majority of the first quarter, going up as many as six points when Hoyt made another 3-pointer from the left corner with 1:57 to go in the frame.

“We decided we’d come out here and have some fun and be a little loose with it instead of being so uptight and scared to make turnovers and scared to make mistakes,” said Hoyt, who finished with 14 points. “I feel it was our mentality that really got us into this game.”

The Blue Devils (9-1) scored the final five points of the first quarter, but couldn’t fully shake their slumber. The Raiders went on a 6-0 run in the second quarter with Aiden Klauser finishing it with a tip-in for a 22-17 lead with 4:29 to play before halftime.

“Notre Dame came out and landed some blows early on,” Douglas said. “It took a while for our guys to wake up. The energy was great from (the Raiders) and low from us. Teams are going to bring it at a different level against this squad and our guys have to know that.”

QHS responded to it with a decisive run. Dominique Clay and Longcor hit back-to-back 3-pointers, assisting on each other’s make, while Longcor added a steal and layup and an assist in the 12-1 run to close the half.

The Blue Devils never trailed again.

“It got everybody live and got our energy back up,” said Longcor, who had 11 points and five assists..

In the second half, the energy turned into defense.

The Blue Devils scored nine points off turnovers and surrendered just five field goals over the final 16 minutes. The Raiders shot just 38.5 percent from the field in the second half.

“In the first quarter, we didn’t have much energy,” said QHS junior Camden Brown, who scored a game-high 21 points and converted a fourth-quarter steal into an exclamation point dunk. “The second quarter came and we picked up our energy. After halftime, we were all talking and really playing with high energy.

“When we have energy, we just flat out defend.”

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