By ANTHONY SANDOVAL
Special to The Herald-Whig
ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — Three weeks ago, the Quincy High School boys basketball team had the Western Big Six Conference championship in its hands.
Now, all it has is a prayer.
Three straight WB6 losses, the last of which came Friday night with a 61-50 setback against Rock Island Alleman at Don Morris Gym, have taken the Blue Devils from having a two-game lead on the field to trailing Rock Island by one game. Quincy (16-8, 6-3) travels to Rock Island (20-4, 7-2) next Friday needing to beat the Rocks to share the crown.
"We know what we have to do," Quincy coach Sean Taylor said. "We have to win."
It's the same scenario as last year when Rocky visited Quincy for the final regular-season game and needed a victory to claim the WB6 title outright.
The Blue Devils denied that, winning on Martin Kvitle's jumper in the waning seconds for a share of their 20th conference title.
Winning a 21st title might be a little tougher, especially if the Blue Devils can't right the ship or stop penetration.
Alleman senior Adam Hoogerwerf was the attacking force, scoring 16 points, grabbing six rebounds and dishing five assists.
"I thought the key was Hoogerwerf," Taylor said. "He was tough to compete against, but fun to watch. He was so good offensively and defensively, and got to the rim when needed. He was such a good player for them."
Despite Hoogerwerf's performance, the Blue Devils (16-8, 6-3 Big 6) managed to sneak back into the game. Kvitle played a big part in the comeback as he put together
a 14-point night with four assists.
Zach Burry was the only other Blue Devil to score in double digits with 11 points.
Trailing by as many as 18 points in the third quarter, Quincy put together an 11-0 run to make it 37-30 early in the fourth period.
"Its an easy speech," Taylor said. "You're down so you got to extend and force some turnovers, which we did. We put ourselves in too deep of a hole."
The Blue Devils forced 18 turnovers overall, with 10 coming in the second half when they
made a run at the Pioneers.
Quincy couldn't take advantage of Alleman's late misfortunes. The Pioneers were 14 of 25 from the charity stripe after Quincy put them in the bonus with six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.
Quincy shot 3 for 23 from beyond the arc, failing to convert on nine attempts in the fourth quarter. As a team, the Blue Devils shot 35 percent (19 for 54) from the field and were outrebounded 27-20.
"We could never get the game to a point where it got really interesting," Taylor said. "When you're down, you've got to take advantage of every opportunity on offense and we weren't able to do that."