By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
The stranglehold the Quincy High School boys basketball team once had on the Western Big Six Conference title chase is now gone.
And the Blue Devils face a long road to get it back.
After losing 54-51 Friday night to Moline at Blue Devil Gym -- the second WB6 loss in as many weeks -- Quincy is no longer in control. The Blue Devils are tied with Rock Island for first place at 6-2, and they close the WB6 season with games at Rock Island Alleman and Rocky the next two Fridays.
It sets up the possibility of a winner-take-all matchup at the Rocky Fieldhouse in two weeks, but the Blue Devils know the title chase shouldn't come down to the final game.
"We can't dwell on it," Quincy senior guard Mason Fairley said. "We have to put it out of our mind and move on tomorrow."
The memory of back-to-back subpar efforts could be hard to shake.
A week after getting outscored by nine points in the second quarter at Galesburg, Quincy (15-7) got pummeled in the first quarter by Moline. The Maroons held the Blue Devils scoreless the final 3 minutes, 55 seconds of the quarter and limited them to 2-of-10 shooting from the field in building a 16-5 lead.
"They came out and clocked us," Quincy coach Sean Taylor said.
It got worse. Derrick Stabler's 14-foot jumper from the left baseline gave the Maroons a 28-12 lead with 2:27 left in the first half. The Blue Devils scored the final five points to make it an 11-point deficit at halftime, but the damage was done.
"We didn't guard very effectively, and they made shots," said Taylor, whose team was 6 of 22 from the field and 3 of 14 from 3-point range in the first half. "It's disappointing because I thought we would guard."
Moline (17-10, 4-4) shot 54.2 percent from the field in the first half (13 of 24) and had 11 assists. Stabler, who came in averaging 5.8 points per game, had 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting with five assists in the half.
The senior forward finished with 17 points.
"He played probably the game of his life tonight," Moline sophomore guard Tyler Biscontine said.
Biscontine made some of the biggest plays of his brief career, too.
Quincy whittled the deficit to 40-37 by the end of the third quarter and drew even when Fairley knocked down a 3-pointer from the top of the key on the opening possession of the fourth quarter.
However, Biscontine drove the right side of the lane for a basket that gave the Maroons the lead and they never relinquished it. The Blue Devils pulled within 52-51 when Zach Burry drilled a 3-pointer with 39.7 seconds remaining in regulation, less than 10 seconds after Biscontine made two free throws for a two-possession lead.
The teams traded fruitless possessions before Biscontine was fouled with 9.0 seconds remaining. He confidently made both free throws for the 54-51 edge.
"You gotta be (confident)," Biscontine said. "That's the only way. You can't go up there scared. You have to go up there with the mindset you're going to swish those two free throws."
Quincy had a chance to tie. The Blue Devils inbounded the ball to midcourt and called timeout with 7.3 seconds remaining. The ensuing play was intended to go to Burry on the wing, but he never caught it cleanly and the ball was quickly moved around the perimeter to Martin Kvitle, who led Quincy with 17 points.
His desperation attempt clanged off the iron, sealing Quincy's fate.
"We competed, but it's hard to come back from that type of deficit," Taylor said. "We need to compete for 32 minutes. We're not good enough to walk on the floor and win. We need to compete for 32 minutes."