By MARC NESSELER
Special to The Herald-Whig
MOLINE, Ill. -- Moline girls basketball coach Steve Ford wasn't afraid to say it.
He's glad his Maroons caught Quincy early in the conference schedule.
"I think they showed signs against United Township, against Galesburg and against us," Ford said after Moline handed Quincy its 29th consecutive Western Big Six Conference loss with a 46-42 victory Thursday night at Wharton Field House. "They are going to win some games. I'm glad we were able to battle them and pull it out."
Quincy coach Demond Dade is less shy about just how many games he thinks his Blue Devils (4-5) can win.
"We could be 3-0, we should be 3-0," Dade emphatically stated of what is an 0-3 mark in the WB6. "I'm proud of our girls. We are working on mental toughness. For so long, we have been the whipping post of the Big 6, been laughed at. But at some point, we've got to catch a fair break.
"Against Galesburg, they shot 24 free throws in a three-minute overtime, and I don't even know how that's possible. And we shot eight all game this game."
The Blue Devils were 8 of 8 by the way.
"Our mantra, and I don't know if you heard it as we came out of the locker room, is that we still want to be conference champs," Dade said. "It is going to take getting some help, but we need to start taking care of business."
That's a mouthful considering Quincy hasn't won in the league since beating Rock Island on Dec. 17, 2009. Yet, it did seem as if the Blue Devils had outplayed the Maroons (4-6, 2-1), forcing 24 turnovers and outrebounding the hosts 30-25.
"That pressure was pretty extreme," Ford said of the Blue Devils defense.
In fact, Moline needed every ounce of fortitude from its top two of Morgan Gerard and Becky Lankford. Gerard hit 9-of-14 shots en route to 20 points to go with six rebounds. Lankford was one rebound shy of a double-double, with 10 points and nine boards.
"Becky was outstanding; I don't think she ever sat down except for maybe timeouts," Ford said of his center. "And yet, she still hit that 3" midway through the fourth quarter to give Moline some breathing room at 43-38.
Lankford hobbled out of the locker room, but it wasn't from playing hard for 32 minutes at both ends of the court.
"I twisted my ankle toward the end of the game," she said. "This was a conference game and we really wanted it. A lot of people were not giving us a lot of credit going into the season, but we proved we can win and we will."
The same holds true for Quincy.
The Blue Devils were hurt by 2-of-21 shooting beyond the arc, and a 3-of-15 from the field in the fourth quarter. Quincy entered that frame up by a point. That lead got to three (38-35) before two Jordan de los Reyes free throws and back-to-back treys by Gerard and Lankford turned the tide.
And by the time de los Reyes closed it out with two more free throws with 13 seconds left, Moline was able to breathe a sigh of relief that the Blue Devils didn't end their streak against it.
"I'm happy we got better and still got a win," Ford said. "All Thursdays in the Big 6 are going to be like that."
And the way the Blue Devils have played, one of those December Thursdays just might provide the break they've needed to end that skid.