By STEPHANIE OITKER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
Deny and attack.
That's the motto for the Quincy High School girls basketball team.
"It's our style of defense," QHS coach Demond Dade said. "Stay up at the line and deny the basketball to their player. Deny, put pressure on the team and force your will on the other team."
For one half Tuesday night, everything went according to plan for the Blue Devils before East Moline used a strong second half to claim a 37-28 win at the QHS gym.
"It was a lack of communication and belief," QHS senior Jordan Fletcher said. "We weren't holding it together. It's not anything physical -- we have a lot of great athletes -- it's all mental."
QHS trailed just 16-13 at halftime before East Moline used a 14-4 run in the third quarter to provide some separation.
"The only thing that changed was we stopped executing our offense and went away from our gameplan," Dade said. "We were failing to get the shots we wanted."
It was the 27th straight Western Big Six Conference loss for QHS, which fell to 1-1 overall and 0-1 in the league. East Moline improved to 1-3 overall and 1-1 in the WB6.
"It seems like every time we come down to Quincy it's one of these types of games -- physical, not a lot of offense and a lot of defense," East Moline coach Justin Shiltz said. "Every game in our league is like this -- defense-oriented. Points are at a premium. One down, and nine to go."
It was nearly four minutes before either team scored in the first quarter. With 4:20 remaining in the first quarter, Fletcher grabbed a rebound and drove the length of the court for a layup.
QHS didn't score again until two minutes later when Angel Bradford connected on the back end of a 1 and 1. Fletcher added two free throws at the 2:04 mark, and East Moline ended the quarter ahead 7-5.
Hannah Reller opened the scoring in the second quarter for QHS on a putback on a missed shot from Arai'ya Dade. The two teams traded buckets and tied the game at 9.
QHS took the lead at 5:25 when Measha Ferguson-Smith hit the front end of a 1 and 1 to put the Blue Devils ahead 10-9. Fletcher drained a 3-pointer with 1:27 left in the half, but East Moline took a 16-13 lead into halftime.
"They got us on our heels a little in the first half with their pressure," Shiltz said. "We weathered it, found ways to score and gutted out a win."
Fletcher opened the second half with a bucket in the post to pull QHS to within 16-15 with 7:15 left in the quarter. East Moline took over, outscoring QHS 14-4 and holding the Blue Devils to just one more third-quarter field goal -- a bucket in the paint by Reller with 3:54 left in the third quarter.
"During that stretch, we weren't hitting shots, and I think we got discouraged and people stopped taking shots," Demond Dade said. "The ladies knew we needed to score, and we went from no shots falling to taking the wrong shots."
East Moline stifled Quincy to open the fourth quarter, holding the Blue Devils scoreless until Fletcher drained a 3-pointer with 1:34 left in the game. Seventeen seconds later, Fletcher scored in the low point to close the gap to 37-22.
With less than 25 seconds left to go, Bradford and Fletcher drained back-to-back 3-pointers, but the rally didn't come soon enough.
"We pulled it together, but by then it was too late," Arai'ya Dade said. "This is not a one-person team. You have to play together. I don't feel we played together tonight."
Freshman Jada Harris was the only Lady Panther in double digits with 12.
Fletcher led QHS with 14 points, nine of which came via 3-pointers.
The priority for the Blue Devils now is putting Tuesday's loss behind them with their Thanksgiving Tournament looming this weekend.