By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
COLLINSVILLE, Ill. -- When Quincy High School point guard Martin Kvitle looked up at the clock, he had a moment of disbelief.
Could there really be five minutes remaining?
"I thought we had been playing forever," Kvitle said.
Springfield Southeast just made it feel that way.
Aggressive and physical, the Spartans had done their best to wear down the Blue Devils, tying the game at 39 when B.J. Hill knifed his way to the basket for a layin with 4 minutes, 58 seconds remaining in the quarterfinals of the 29th annual Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic.
However, Quincy had plenty of energy remaining. The Blue Devils answered with an 8-0 run -- Kvitle and Cole Abbey each scored four points -- and made enough free throws down the stretch to knock off the third-seeded Spartans 51-44 at Vergil Fletcher Gym.
"You've got a find way," Kvitle said. "As a team, we did a pretty good job of finding a way to grind it out."
It puts Quincy (10-1) in the semifinals for the second time in the last three seasons and the 15th time in 25 tournament appearances. The Blue Devils will face Collinsville (6-5) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday. The Kahoks upset second-seeded Chatham Glenwood 45-39.
The championship game is scheduled to tip off at 8 p.m. The third-place game will be at 6:30 p.m.
"We have to remember (Saturday) there are two games," Kvitle said. "We're not coming here to lose. Getting fourth or third isn't good enough. It's strictly not.
"You work so hard every day in practice and the offseason to be in this position. We have to take advantage of it."
That's how the Blue Devils approached the second half Friday night.
Despite leading by as many as six points in the first half, Quincy went through a 4:45 cold spell in the second quarter in which a 16-11 lead became a 22-16 deficit. The Blue Devils went 10 straight possessions without scoring, committing seven turnovers in the process.
A Kvitle 3-pointer, which came after a Jason Salrin offensive rebound and kickout, cut the halftime deficit to 22-19 and allowed the Blue Devils to be confident going into the second half.
"It was really physical, and you just have to play smart in those situations," said Salrin, who finished with 10 points and 11 rebounds despite picking up his fourth foul with 4:55 to go in the third quarter. "Coach said we had to play together and be more of a family than the other team.
"We were super tight-knit and got things done."
Quincy needed 3:35 to erase the deficit and then played tug-o-war with the lead until midway through the fourth quarter. There were seven lead changes and four ties in that stretch.
However, Kvitle and Abbey had back-to-back layups to give Quincy a two-possession lead before Abbey pulled up at the free-throw line in transition and buried a 15-foot jumper for a six-point edge.
"Cole hit an unbelievable dagger," Kvitle said. "Unreal."
At first, Quincy coach Sean Taylor had a "no, no, no, don't shoot it" reaction to Abbey's shot. When it went in, Taylor smiled, knowing how big of a moment it was.
"If he makes it, it's over," Taylor said. "He had the confidence to shoot it."
Kvitle, who scored a game-high 23 points, had the confidence to go to the line in the final minute, too. The team's leading free-throw shooter, Kvitle struggled, going 8 of 15 at the line overall and missing a pair with 43.8 seconds remaining.
He stepped back to the line 30 seconds later and made two free throws to give Quincy a two-possession lead.
"I told him, ‘We're going to you. We're going to ride you,'" Taylor said. "He stepped up and made them."
That's the mentality that has put Quincy in position to potentially play for a title.
"It's right where we want to be," Salrin said.