By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
Wednesday afternoon, Quincy High School boys basketball coach Sean Taylor broke the news to Zach Burry.
The junior guard was getting his first career start.
"I was practicing with the blue squad, and (Taylor) just told us this was going to be the starting five," Burry said. "He said, ‘Just be ready to play.'"
Burry didn't need to be told twice.
Stepping in for junior forward Connor Mellon, who was serving a one-game suspension for a previous ejection, Burry more than doubled his season scoring output with a career-high 16 points Friday night as the eighth-ranked Blue Devils stayed unbeaten in the Western Big Six Conference with a 58-40 victory over Rock Island Alleman at Blue Devil Gym.
"You know you're going to play, so I was little bit more nervous," Burry said. "But I was ready to play."
Burry missed a 3-point attempt on Quincy's initial possession, but he delivered two assists during the ensuing 12-2 run as he showcased a complete game. He finished with three assists, three steals, three rebounds and a blocked shot in the most extensive playing time of his career.
"I told Zach over and over again why he isn't playing more isn't because he's not good," Taylor said. "He's just caught behind Martin (Kvitle), Mason (Fairley) and Cole (Abbey). He's in sort of a bad predicament. But he just battles in practice. ... And he showed he can play offensively, but he did a really good job guarding at the other end."
Above all, Burry finally was able to showcase his 3-point shot.
Burry went 4 of 7 from 3-point range, making two in the third
quarter after Alleman (5-9, 1-3 WB6) trimmed the deficit to just seven points.
"It was the first time I actually felt it," Burry said. "I felt good. I was confident. I knew it was going in when I shot it."
That seemed to be contagious.
Quincy (12-2, 4-0) scored on its first five possessions and on 8 of its 11 possessions in the first quarter, building a 21-8 lead. The Blue Devils went 8 of 12 from the field and 4 of 7 from 3-point range in the first quarter.
"We're not capable of digging ourselves out of a hole like that all of the time," Alleman coach Pat Rangel said. "That's kind of been our M.O. right now. There's nothing average about an Alleman basketball player, but our guys know they are playing mediocre basketball right now. We'll find a way to get better."
At the same time, Quincy was clicking. The Blue Devils had assists on six of the eight first-quarter field goals and finished with 13 assists on 22 field goals overall.
"We have some smart guys who find the open spot," Taylor said.
They get after it defensively, too.
Led by the presence of 6-foot-7 forward Jason Salrin, the Blue Devils outrebounded the Pioneers 33-23 and held them to 35 percent shooting from the field. Salrin grabbed 10 rebounds -- his fourth double-digit rebound effort in the last seven games --and he is averaging 9.9 boards over that span.
"He's a great rebounder," Burry said. "It helps so much when he's down there getting almost every rebound."
It was expected of him. With Burry replacing Mellon, it was the first time this season the Blue Devils used a four-guard lineup, making Salrin the primary rebounder.
He didn't back down from that challenge.
"I think confidence is so important," Taylor said. "He's gaining confidence. He thinks he's a good player. Offensively, defensively, he's doing a little of everything."