Sterling provides wake-up call as Klaver’s game-winning 3-pointer knocks Blue Devils from top of WB6

Quincy’s Keshaun Thomas secures a rebound against Sterling’s Andre Klaver Friday, Jan. 26, 2024 at Sterling High School.

Quincy's Keshaun Thomas, right, rips a rebound away from Sterling's Andre Klaver during Friday night's high school boys basketball game at Homer Musgrove Fieldhouse in Sterling. | Photo courtesy of Alex Paschal, Shaw Media

STERLING, Ill. – The Western Big Six Conference race just got a little tighter.

Sterling guard Andre Klaver buried a contested 3-pointer from deep on the left wing with 5.6 seconds remaining Friday night to stun third-ranked Quincy High School 65-62 in Homer Musgrove Fieldhouse.

The Blue Devils, who beat the Golden Warriors 66-41 at home in early December, trailed by 16 points just 94 seconds into the second half before clawing their way back to twice take a one-point lead in the closing minutes.

After Keshaun Thomas found Camden Brown for a layup with 39 seconds left to knot the score at 62, the Golden Warriors used most of the clock before Lucas Austin kicked the ball outside to Klaver for his only made 3-pointer to cap a 26-point scoring night.

The loss, coupled with Rock Island’s 49-47 victory over Moline, catapults the Rocks into first place with an 8-1 league record, a half-game ahead of Quincy (20-2 overall, 7-1 in the WB6) and one game clear of the Maroons, who visit Blue Devil Gym Tuesday night.

“We didn’t come out with the energy and the intensity that we needed to on the road,” Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. “I don’t know if we walked in thinking it would be an easy win or not, but we were not prepared enough to take the floor and dug ourselves a hole.

“Whether or not we wanted a wake-up call, we got one.”

The Blue Devils scored 10 of the game’s opening 12 points, only to stagnate on the offensive end. They could not connect from the perimeter and failed to capitalize on several close-in shots. Then Bradley Longcor III went to the bench with his second foul with 2:44 to go in the first quarter, removing a key offensive threat.

Meanwhile, the Golden Warriors began to heat up, especially from the perimeter. Forward Maddux Osborn, who came in averaging 5.6 points per game, connected on two 3-pointers from the right corner and scored eight of his 11 points in the opening quarter, which ended with the hosts ahead, 16-15.

Austin, a 6-foot-7, 270-pound forward, was taking a football recruiting visit to West Virginia when he missed the first meeting. He began to establish himself both inside and along the perimeter, scoring nine of his 25 points in the second quarter. 

Quincy’s offensive woes continued. It made just 3 of 10 shots from the field in the second period and 9 of 28 in the half. Klaver’s pull-up jumper from the lane with a minute left gave Sterling a 34-23 halftime lead.

“We were playing with our heads down and palms up,” Douglas said. “We got off to a decent start and then allowed the officiating and missed opportunities at the basket to ruin the mental part of our game. We didn’t adjust well. It was a lack of toughness.”

Two driving layups by the 6-foot-3 Klaver, who continually worked himself free inside off the dribble against smaller defenders, and a 3-pointer by Austin pushed the Golden Warriors’ advantage to 41-25 with 6:26 left in the third quarter. 

That’s when Quincy finally began to assert itself.

Thomas’ rebound bucket off a Tyler Sprick miss and ensuing free throw capped a 13-0 run that pulled the Blue Devils within 41-38 at the 3:58 mark. But every time they seemed ready to take control, either Austin or Klaver answered. The duo combined to score all 21 of the Golden Warriors’ points in the period.

Trailing 55-47 entering the final quarter, Dom Clay turned a steal into a layup. He then buried a 3-pointer from the left wing off transition to close to gap to 55-52. Longcor drove the left baseline and fed Thomas for a short jumper and free throw to cap an 11-2 run that put Quincy ahead 58-57 with 3:48 to play.

“Our team has a lot of firepower, a lot of guys who can make plays,” Douglas said. “Once we got away from placing blame, we put some stops together and knocked down some shots. But then they would come down and knock down some shots. It was too little, too late.”

Austin answered by putting in a rebound of a Kaedon Phillips miss, but Thomas was fouled and sank two free throws with 2:35 left to give the Blue Devils a 60-59 lead. Thomas finished with a team-high 22 points and 10 rebounds.

After Carter Chance made the second of two free throws to tie it, Brown missed badly on a 3-point try from the right corner with 1:40 remaining. After milking the clock, Klaver backed down and stepped through two defenders in the lane to put Sterling back on top with 59 seconds left to set the stage for the finish.

“They made shots, and sometimes the game comes down to that,” Douglas said. “We didn’t make enough plays on our end. If we don’t bring the energy and the mental and physical toughness that we need against teams like this, then this is a possibility.”

Klaver made 11 of 15 field goal attempts to finish a point shy of his career high. Sterling shot 59 percent from the field to improve to 17-5 overall and 5-4 in league play. The Golden Warriors, coming off back-to-back narrow losses to Moline and Rock Island, were good on 9 of 16 tries from 3-point range, with Austin hitting on 5 of 8.

Longcor finished with 14 points for Quincy despite being saddled with foul trouble most of the game. Brown scored 13 points but went just 4 of 12 from the field.

With top-ranked Homewood-Flossmoor and Chicago Curie having both lost earlier in the week, the Blue Devils appeared poised to move into the top spot in Class 4A with a win here and another Saturday night at home against Batavia.

Instead, they suddenly find themselves looking up in the conference standings.

“We have to understand people are coming after us,” Douglas said. “We have to bring it from start to finish. I loved the way we climbed back and clawed our way back, but you can’t allow a 16-point deficit and expect to come back from it.”

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