By STEVE OVERBEY
Special to the Herald-Whig
EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — Quincy High School girls basketball coach Greg Altmix flashed the smile of a winner Thursday night.
No, his Blue Devils did not upset top-seeded Edwardsville, which improved to 30-1 with a 55-28 victory in the championship game of the Edwardsville Class 4A Regional at Lucco-Jackson Gymnasium.
But the second-seeded Blue Devils did the next best thing. They overcame a horrendous start to stay relatively even over the final three quarters against the fourth-ranked team in the state.
"I'm so proud of our girls. They kept battling, they played hard and most importantly they didn't quit," Altmix said. "I'm walking off this floor disappointed with the loss — but I'm not disappointed with the effort."
Quincy ends the season 10-15, but does so with plenty of pride.
"We can leave here with our heads high knowing we gave it our all," Altmix said. "I couldn't ask for anything more."
Edwardsville, which recorded its 27th successive home win, will face Belleville East in the semifinal round of the Bloomington Sectional on Tuesday at a location to be announced this weekend.
The Tigers used a 20-0 run over the first nine minutes to take control 20-2. Quincy, which trailed 24-4 at one point, stayed even the rest of the way and even cut a 27-point deficit to 19 with a gutsy run in the final period.
Junior guard Arai'ya Dade led the Blue Devils with nine points, seven in the final period. Juniors Taylor Eisenberg and Jordan Fletcher added eight points each.
"They played hard and tried to take some things away from us," Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said of Quincy.
Jordan Fletcher got the Blue Devils off and running with a stick-back of a Hannah Reller miss for a 2-0 lead just 14 seconds into the contest.
Then the roof caved in on Altmix's crew.
Edwardsville reeled off the next 20 points, hitting 8 of 10 shots, to take a 20-2 lead. The Tigers led by 20 before Quincy finally regained its bearings.
Taylor Eisenberg triggered a mini-rally by hitting three long-range jumpers. Fletcher added a free throw to trim the deficit to 28-11 with 2:06 left in the opening half.
But the Tigers reclaimed the momentum on a 3-pointer by Sarah Parker, who led all scorers with 10 points.
Edwardsville pushed its lead to 47-20 at the outset of the fourth quarter before Quincy recorded an 8-2 run to get to within 49-28. Dade's 3-pointer and a free throw from Reller keyed the spurt.
"Bad start for us," Altmix said. "We were a little lackadaisical and we weren't moving in our offensive set. We were a step slow."
Yet, the Blue Devils did not quit.
"They tried to do the things that we talked about, but we just weren't able to. But give credit to (Edwardsville). That's a great team over there," Altmix said.
Parker, a defensive specialist averaging 4.1 points per game, took over the scoring load. Edwardsville junior forward Emmonnie Henderson, the team's leading scorer at 15.9 points per game, managed just six points but dominated at the defensive end with six blocks, five in the first half.
But it was two quick baskets by Parker that keyed the tell-tale 20-0 spurt.
"It was really good to go out there and get a jump on them," Parker said. "We wanted to show them that we deserve it."