Execution in the final minute of regulation has been one of the Quincy High School boys basketball team's biggest bugaboos.
So has the inconsistency leading up to that final minute.
The Blue Devils lost 55-52 Friday night to Rock Island largely because they mixed spurts of quality play with moments of indecision. The Blue Devils didn't score the final 3 minutes, 10 seconds of regulation and had possession trailing by one with 24 seconds remaining and didn't get a shot off. It was reminiscent of the loss to Waukegan in the QHS Thanksgiving Tournament when the Blue Devils trailed by one with less than 10 seconds remaining and were forced to heave a 3-point attempt because of issues getting the ball into the frontcourt.
"We have to be better at finishing games off," Quincy coach Andy Douglas said. "Unfortunately, we're learning right now."
The Blue Devils are trying to figure out how to play from in front.
Quincy led only twice in the second half for a grand total of 2 minutes, 7 seconds, and kept pestering Rock Island by not letting the Rocks extend their lead beyond seven points at any stretch. There were four lead changes and three ties in the final nine minutes,
"We were throwing blows," Douglas said. "It was like a boxing match out there. We would make a run and they would come back and then we'd hit them. It was back and forth. When we got up one point, we had to execute. We didn't. We have to execute down the stretch."
Keeping Brock involved
During the second and third quarters, Quincy leaned on senior guard Jirehl Brock as he scored all 13 of his points, went 6 of 6 from the line and had a rim-rocking tip dunk of a Jeremiah Talton miss. However, Brock didn't score and attempted only one shot in the final 14 minutes. He did grab four rebounds and add a steal in that stretch, but the Blue Devils didn't look to him offensively or allow him to attack the rim and get to the free-throw line down the stretch.
Quincy went 10 of 11 from the line, but attempted just four free throws in the second half.
Not shying away
JaMir Price went to the Rock Island bench with 5 minutes, 17 seconds remaining in regulation after picking up his fourth foul when Quincy's Lucas Reis drew a charging call. He didn't stay sidelined long.
Rock Island coach Thom Sigel brought Price back with 3:10 to play and Rocks trailing by two. The senior guard who has committed to Bradley made a series of plays to give the Rocks advantage, even though each put him perilously close to picking up a fifth foul.
It started with a drive to the basket in which he drew a blocking foul against Quincy's Jeremiah Talton and split a pair of free throws to make it 52-51. On the Blue Devils' ensuing possession, Price stole the ball from Talton and scored a layup in transition to give Rock Island a 53-52 lead. But the most critical play came with roughly a minute to play. Reis stole the ball and attacked the rim in transition, but Price recovered to challenge the shot at the rim. Reis missed the attempt as Price blocked the shot, leaving Quincy coach Andy Douglas irate on the sideline because of the lack of a foul call.
Price wasn't worried about the potential of committing a foul. He simply wanted to make a play for his teammates.
"On the last block, it was just emotion. ... I just wanted to block that shot," Price told the Dispatch/Argus after the game.
Coming down to three
For the third time in the last four meetings at Blue Devil Gym, the Quincy-Rocky showdown was decided by three points. Each time, a critical defensive play in the final minute preserved the lead.
In 2016, when the Blue Devils won 53-50, Garrett Gadeke stepped into the lane to take Lacey Wilson's path to the basket away, stole the pass and got the ball into the hands of point guard Mike Dade, who split a pair of free throws make it a three-point game. In 2018, when the Blue Devils won 40-37, Jirehl Brock blocked a shot by the Rocks' Ben Ellis with less than 10 seconds left. The Blue Devils grabbed the rebound and Aaron Shoot made two free throws for the three-point advantage.
Friday night, Rocky sophomore Jordan Rice made the play that sealed the game. He stole the ball from Quincy's Jaeden Smith with two seconds remaining and made two free throws to ice the 55-52 victory.
"He's a competitor that we believe in and keep bringing along," Sigel said.
Around the WB6
Moline took control of the conference title chase by burying United Township with a first-half onslaught in a meeting of the last two unbeaten teams. The Maroons led by 16 at halftime and finished off a 67-56 victory to move into first place alone with a 3-0 record. Moline went 19 of 33 from the line, scoring all of its fourth-quarter points at the charity stripe. Galesburg rolled to a 78-53 victory over Alleman as the Silver Streaks went on a 24-0 run in the third quarter.