Schuck's Clipboard

Beyond the Boxscore: Bench gives Blue Devils energetic lift

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Dec. 29, 2018 10:30 am Updated: Dec. 29, 2018 10:41 am

Evan Cain probably won't play a single minute this season, but his impact on the Quincy High School boys basketball team won't diminish because of it.

Friday was the perfect example.

The Blue Devils squared off with Belleville Althoff in the consolation semifinals of the 35th annual Collinsville Prairie Farms Holiday Classic, but since the game was played in the auxiliary gym, there was little energy to be had. So Cain and the rest of the QHS bench created some.

It boosted the Blue Devils to a 14-2 lead four minutes into the game and they rolled to a 47-26 victory and the chance to finish the tournament 3-1. They will have to beat Belleville East at 3 p.m. Saturday in the consolation championship in Vergil Fletcher Gym to do that.

And energy again will be of the utmost importance.

"Not just playing in the auxiliary gym, where it kicks it up even more, but this is a tournament where we don't have a ton of fans so we have to generate our own energy," QHS coach Andy Douglas said. "This game was the first time consistently we've done that, and our bench was a big part of that."

The starters felt it.

"That's the best job they've done all year," senior guard Jirehl Brock said of the bench. "Knowing them, they'll keep it up knowing we got the win with it."

Cain, a senior guard who was injured during the offseason and has not suited up this year, was the catalyst for the energetic bench.

"Evan is an interesting guy," Brock said. "You've got to love him. One of the reasons he's on this team is he brings that energy no matter what and talks. He's a funny kid. There's no denying that. He brings that spark to this team. There are other guys, too, who bring the energy, but Evan knows he has to do that because that's just like him being out on the court. That's his role."

The Blue Devils scored on five of their first six possessions and made their first four 3-pointers, but it was Jaeden Smith's 3-pointer from the top of the key on the first possession of the game that ignited everything.

"After running that play, I could tell by the reaction of the bench we were in good shape," Smith said. "The bench was going crazy. I was like, ‘This is going to be a fun game.'"


Auxiliary gym success

Douglas admitted the last thing the Blue Devils had in mind was to lose Thursday's opening game and get banished to the auxiliary gym where the consolation bracket gets played. But history has shown that isn't the worst thing to happen.

This is the fourth time in 31 tournament appearance the Blue Devils have been forced to play in the small gym -- it's a practice gym with enough bleachers to comfortably seat about 150 fans -- and the Blue Devils are now 10-1 in the facility with two consolation championships in the three previous attempts.

In 2006, the Blue Devils lost the tournament opener and then ran off three straight victories to kickstart a 14-game winning streak. The two victories Friday -- the Blue Devils beat Oakville 62-39 and followed up with the victory over Althoff -- created similar good vibes.

"We're starting to find what we can do," Smith said. "That's what Quincy basketball is about and that's what Quincy basketball is known for, being able to do that to teams. It's smother them and do that early in games. We're going to get back to doing that on a consistent basis."


Facing the Lancers again

Quincy will face Belleville East in the consolation championship in the continuation of a fun tournament rivalry. The Blue Devils and Lancers have met seven times since 2004 with Belleville East holding a 4-3 advantage, which includes a 45-39 victory in the 2005 championship game. The Blue Devils have won the last two meetings, including a 65-46 victory in the first round last year.