By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
Martin Kvitle did his best sales job.
Mason Fairley did the rest.
With the Quincy High School boys basketball team trailing state-ranked Rock Island by a point and 12 seconds remaining in overtime Friday night, Kvitle inbounded the ball to Fairley near the right corner, stepped inbounds hard and acted like he was going to get a handoff.
Expecting that, Rock Island overplayed to stop Kvitle, allowing Fairley to roll to the baseline and attack the rim. Fouled by Rocky's Raahsaan Brown as he attempted the shot, Fairley stepped to the line and made two free throws with 8.8 seconds left, lifting the Blue Devils to a pivotal 48-47 Western Big Six Conference victory at Blue Devil Gym.
"When all is said and done, after all the fighting and all the hard work, that's fun," Fairley said after Quincy finished the first half of the WB6 season alone in first place with a 5-0 record with a one-game lead over Galesburg and a two-game edge on Rocky. "It would have been a fun game no matter what, but a win gives you a little bit better feeling."
It's even better when a game-deciding play works to perfection.
After scoring on the opening possession of overtime, the Blue Devils (13-3) led until the Rocks' Brian Richardson buried a 3-pointer from the left corner with 34 seconds remaining for a 47-46 edge.
Staying patient offensively, Quincy worked toward the basket before a pass was tipped out of bounds with 12 seconds remaining. That's when Quincy coach Sean Taylor drew up the play.
"Coach thought they were going to key on (Kvitle) again," Fairley said. "That's smart. He's a really good player. He sold it, coming off real hard and acting like he was going to get it. They bit, and it worked to perfection."
The game, though, wasn't over.
Fairley's free throw gave Quincy a one-point lead, but Rock Island, ranked seventh in Class 4A, had enough time to go the length of the floor and get a potential game-winning shot off.
Coming out of a timeout, the Rocks (14-4, 3-2) inbounded the ball to jitterbug-quick point guard C.J. Carr, who came up the right side and looked to drive from the wing.
However, as he tried to juke a defender, Carr dribbled the ball off his foot and out of bounds with 1.3 seconds remaining.
After Quincy ran out the clock, Carr stood in the middle of the Blue Devil Gym floor and pulled his jersey over his face.
"We wanted to put it in his hands and get him free to make a play," said Rock Island coach Thom Sigel, who got 16 points for Carr and 11 from Richardson. "I have confidence in him. It's just one of those things that happens. I know he feels bad that he lost the ball, but every single guy in that locker room would love to see the ball in his hands in that situation next time."
The Blue Devils are confident with the ball in Fairley's hands, too.
Jason Salrin reaffirmed that, giving Fairley a subtle pat on the back just before he stepped to the line.
"We all have trust in him," said Salrin, who led Quincy with 16 points and 12 rebounds. "He believes in himself, too."
The Blue Devils never lost the belief they would win even when a nine-point lead evaporated.
Quincy went on a 13-3 run over the final 4:51 of the third quarter to go up 38-31 after Salrin scored on a putback with one second remaining in the quarter. The lead was pushed to 40-31 when Kvitle made a pair of free throws on the Blue Devils' first possession of the fourth quarter.
However, Rocky forced three straight turnovers and scored off of each during a 10-0 run that gave the Rocks a 41-40 lead with 3:27 remaining.
"We didn't panic," Salrin said. "We all said we deserved to win this game."
The Blue Devils made it entertaining in doing so.
A layin by Rocky's Robert Johnson tied the game at 43 with 2:20 to play, and after trading fruitless possessions, Quincy had the ball with around a minute to go and played for the final shot. Kvitle attempted to attack the lane as time ran down, but he slipped at the free throw line and was called for traveling with 2.1 seconds remaining.
Rocky tried a halfcourt pass, but Fairley intercepted and the Quincy bench called timeout with 1.4 seconds remaining. The ball was inbounded to Kvitle in the left corner, and he got off a 3-point attempt after a dribble to free himself up. It rattled long, sending the game to overtime.
Four more minutes was just enough time for Quincy to keep control of the WB6 race.
"We knew Rocky was going to come after us," Taylor said. "Our kids didn't panic. We still had an opportunity. ... We executed and did what we needed to in order to get some buckets."