By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
When Tyler Ulis picked up his second foul and headed to the bench for the remainder of the second quarter, a window of opportunity opened for the Quincy High School boys basketball team.
Ulis' teammates slammed it shut.
Chicago Heights Marian Catholic outscored Quincy 16-4 with its star point guard sitting for 6 minutes, 7 seconds and never gave the Blue Devils a chance to claw back, winning the battle of state-ranked Class 4A teams 60-39 Saturday night at Blue Devil Gym.
"With Tyler out, usually we run at a deficit there," Marian Catholic coach Mike Taylor, the older brother of Quincy coach Sean Taylor, said. "You see how much we rely on him. For them to step up, not only at the offensive end, but to get the stops down there, hopefully that's taking another step and getting better."
The eighth-ranked Blue Devils need to take a step, too.
It involves getting off on the right foot.
Quincy (12-3) trailed 5-0 out of the gate, didn't score the first 3:38 and fell behind 17-9 by the end of the first quarter. It was eerily similar to the Blue Devils' last loss as East St. Louis opened on an 8-0 run, held Quincy scoreless for 4:05 and won the championship of the Collinsville Schnucks Holiday Classic by eight points.
"We're fighting uphill the whole way and we don't have the team quickness they have or East St. Louis has," Sean Taylor, now 1-1 against his brother, said. "If we can play with the lead, then we can play our style. That's just a subtle key, but it was key tonight."
It will be next Friday in another state-ranked showdown when No. 7 Rock Island visits Blue Devil Gym.
"If we would have gotten off to a better start, it's a whole different story," Quincy guard Martin Kvitle said. "There's no one to blame. We just have to come together and show some toughness."
It wasn't easy to do after getting knocked down.
After Ulis, a junior who is receiving NCAA Division I recruiting interest from the likes of Oregon State, Tennessee and Purdue, was pulled, the fourth-ranked Spartans (16-1) went on an 8-0 burst, getting back-to-back buckets from Joshua Cohn and a 3-pointer from T.J. Parham.
Quincy couldn't answer. The Blue Devils missed seven consecutive shots in the second quarter and cleared only one offensive rebound. In fact, Quincy shot 6 of 20 from the field in the first half and managed only two offensive rebounds while getting outrebounded 23-11 in the half.
Marian Catholic owned a 39-25 rebounding edge overall.
"We were just really quick to the ball," Mike Taylor said. "Instead of playing on our heels, we were on our toes. I thought we were just a little quicker to the ball."
Trailing 38-15 at halftime, the Blue Devils opened the second half on an 8-0 run before Ulis made his presence felt. He scored all seven of Marian Catholic's third-quarter points, pushing the lead back to 20 as Quincy scored just two points the final 4:15 of the third quarter.
Ulis finished with 15 points and five assists as Marian Catholic had four players in double figures. Cole Abbey led Quincy with 12 points as the Blue Devils shot just 35.7 percent from the field (15 of 42) and 27.3 percent from 3-point range (3 of 11).
Those numbers have to improve for Quincy to stay in first place in the Western Big Six Conference moving forward.
"This is the best practice we could have," Kvitle said. "You want to win games like this. You want to win non-conference games. But it prepares us for Rocky. We know how we have to play. We have to play tough."