By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
No one expected flu-riddled Measha Ferguson-Smith to play Thursday night.
In fact, as the Quincy High School girls basketball team warmed up for its Western Big Six Conference finale, one of the assistant coaches began to scratch Ferguson-Smith's name from the scorebook.
Then she came running out of the locker room in uniform.
"My mom, well, she was a bit against it," Ferguson-Smith said.
The way Ferguson-Smith played, her mom couldn't complain too much afterward. The senior forward came off the bench to lead the Blue Devils in scoring and give Quincy aggressive play in an uphill battle that ended with a 70-39 loss to Rock Island.
Even after another WB6 loss, Ferguson-Smith agreed her decision to play was worth it.
"It's not always easy," Ferguson-Smith said. "But you give it your all."
She believes the spirited effort the Blue Devils gave in the second half -- Rocky outscored Quincy by only six points over the final 13 minutes -- will have a residual effect in next week's Class 4A Alton Regional.
"Heart is everything," Ferguson-Smith said. "The game is won time after time after time with heart. Our hearts were in it, and emotions were high. We wanted everything we could get out of this game."
The problem was the Rocks still had something to play for.
Rock Island held Quincy scoreless the final 7 minutes, 6 seconds of the first quarter, put together a 17-1 run to end the first half and ran the table on the WB6 with a 10-0 record.
"It would be easy to say, ‘Well, we're already the conference champion,'" said Rock Island coach Thad Hoover, whose team secured the WB6 title two weeks ago. "But they came out and played hard. That's what you really want as a coach. The rest of the stuff is easy if they're playing hard."
For a minute, it looked like it might not be so simple.
Quincy's Hannah Reller drove the right baseline for a layin on the game's opening possession, and after Carly Hoover answered with a 3-pointer, Reller scored again on a drive down the lane.
About 15 seconds later, Rocky's Shavonne Brewer put back a missed 3-pointer and the Rocks never trailed again.
Quincy went 15 possessions without scoring before Ferguson-Smith ended the run with a layin with 7:14 to go in the second quarter.
"Things might not always go the way we want," said Ferguson-Smith, who led Quincy with 10 points. "You keep battling."
The Blue Devils did that for a stretch, closing within 19-10 on a Jordan Fletcher's putback with four minutes remaining in the first half. Then Rocky ran away.
Jacqueline Twing buried a 3-pointer from the left corner to kickstart the 17-1 run. The Rocks (24-3, 10-0) scored on seven straight possessions, while converting five Blue Devil turnovers into eight points.
"The kids came out with energy," Hoover said.
It left Quincy befuddled.
The Blue Devils went 5 of 25 from the field in the first half and 1 of 6 from the free-throw line. The Rocks also outrebounded the Blue Devils 19-16 in the first half.
"It's expected," Ferguson-Smith said of facing a physical battle in the WB6. "We're always going to expect a battle."
Trailing 38-15 with 5:38 remaining in the third quarter, Quincy coach Demond Dade was hit with his second technical foul and ejected. As he left the gym, he was assessed a third technical.
That led to a five-point possession for the Rocks.
"I was doing my job and the refs did theirs," Dade said. "I'll learn from it."
Brewer led the Rocks with 14 points as 13 players ended up in the scoring column, helping Rock Island cement the perfect season.
"Honestly, I thought we'd have a good team," Hoover said. "The girls just kept getting better all year. We're doing what we need to do. We're getting better every day and hopefully peaking at the right time."