Blue Devils looking to get back in right frame of mind

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 28, 2017 1:10 am Updated: Feb. 28, 2017 9:17 am

There isn't much for the Quincy High School boys basketball players to do other than this: Relax, regroup, refocus.

Failure to do that could turn one loss into an unsightly ending.

The Blue Devils had a 28-game home winning streak snapped last Friday night with a 45-41 loss to Moline that also cost them the outright Western Big Six Conference championship. They still shared the title, but the loss soured what had been an impressive two months of defensive dominance.

The time to rebound is limited with a Class 4A Granite City Regional semifinal against Alton at 7 p.m. Wednesday on tap.

"We have to soul search a little bit," QHS coach Andy Douglas said. "We have to find that edge that we've been playing with. We have to get that back. This group has been consistent with that all season long.

"There haven't been too many losses, and there haven't been too many times where we've lost a game and gone back and pouted about it and didn't get our minds right."

The Blue Devils (20-5) haven't lost back-to-back games this season. That suggests it won't happen now.

More indicative of how the Blue Devils will react was their demeanor last Friday night. They weren't despondent over the loss. They were chafed and understandably so.

The game set up as an historic moment. It would have been the Blue Devils' league-best 12th outright title, given them the best regular-season record since the 1999-2000 season and moved them closer to the program's 2,000th victory. Instead, they had all weekend to dwell on what might have been.

"We're going to hit the gym hard and we're going to get down to business," senior forward Parker Bland said. "We have a lot to play for and we will be ready."

The fiery side of Bland makes him want to fight for a regional title, and that rubs off on his teammates.

The same goes for senior forward Garrett Gadeke and his relentless nature. They are the backbones of a team that plays with an aggressive edge when it is at its best.

Douglas will rely on those two to bring that edge back.

"This group is senior-led and I have absolutely no doubt they'll come back ready to go," Douglas said.

They better because nothing is going to come easy.

Alton, which upended Quincy in the regional championship last season with a fourth-quarter comeback, beat Granite City 74-40 in Monday's regional opener. The Redbirds (15-11) have won eight of their last 12 games with two losses coming to No. 1-ranked Edwardsville.

Senior guard Maurice Edwards leads three Redbirds scoring in double figures with 12.8 points per game. Junior guard Kevin Caldwell and senior forward Dereaun Clay each averaged 11 points per game.

A victory over Alton likely sets up a matchup with Edwardsville, which will face Chatham Glenwood in Tuesday's regional semifinal.

The Tigers (26-1) are on a 22-game winning streak. East St. Louis, the top-seeded team in the Belleville East Regional, and Alton are the only teams to come within 11 points of Edwardsville in 2017.

An opportunity to play the No. 1-ranked team in Class 4A is something the Blue Devils relish and believe will elevate their game.

The grim reality their season could end in a blink is inspiring, too.

"It's win or go home," Bland said. "And no one wants to go home."

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