By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
Martin Kvitle realizes why there are doubters.
"When you lose three Friday nights in a row, that happens," he said.
The Quincy High School senior point guard hopes there still are believers, too.
"To be able to still have a chance says something about how well we can play," he said.
The key is playing at that level Friday night.
Despite having squandered a two-game lead in the Western Big Six Conference standings, the QHS boys basketball team travels to Rock Island for a showdown with conference title implications. Should Quincy (16-8, 6-3 WB6) win, it gains a share of the WB6 championship. Should Rocky (21-4, 7-2) win, it stands alone as the WB6's best.
"Rocky is always who you want to play," Quincy senior guard Mason Fairley said. "Rocky is always contending for the title. Coming out Friday night, thinking it's my last Western Big Six game ever, there's no better edge than knowing this is big. There's no better way to leave than this."
They determine how it ends.
"I think they understand the rivalry of Rocky vs. Quincy, and there's a lot of history there," Quincy coach Sean Taylor said. "This has a chance to be another chapter. Hopefully, we can write a good one."
The Blue Devils are confident they can.
"We can play with them. We can beat them," Fairley said. "We know we can win there. We just have to play with that kind of confidence."
After three straight WB6 losses, including two on the road and an unsightly one to the league's last-place team in Rock Island Alleman, Quincy's confidence could be waning.
The seniors don't see it that way.
"Every sport and everything you do is all about confidence," Kvitle said. "You can see which team has confidence. If we all have the confidence to say, ‘All right, we are better than these guys, but we have to play,' we'll be OK.
"We just have to come out like we're going to kick their butt. I don't know how else to say it."
It's how the Blue Devils approached their last two meetings with the Rocks.
A year ago, in the regular-season finale, the Blue Devils found themselves in this exact position. A victory gave them a share of the title and denied the Rocks of an outright championship.
Kvitle buried a 3-pointer with 2.5 seconds remaining to lift Quincy to a 51-48 victory at Blue Devil Gym. The two teams tied for first place at 7-3, marking the first time in league history the conference champion lost as many as three times.
Should Quincy win Friday night, it would be the second time.
The Blue Devils put themselves in this position by beating Rock Island, the preseason league favorite, in overtime in January at Blue Devil Gym as Fairley made a pair of free throws with 8.8 seconds remaining for a 48-47 victory.
Quincy handled the pressure well in both of those situations.
How the Blue Devils handle it Friday night will determine if they can make it three straight in the series.
"How are people going to respond to pressure? It could go one of two ways," Kvitle said. "People could pee down both legs or people could step up, man up and actually play. That's what we need. It's not about playing cool. It's about getting back to the way we were playing.
"For everybody's sake, you have to play for the person next to you. It has to be insulting if your man scores on you. You have to get a little angry if your man score on you. It just has to be that way."
They must maintain the belief they can win, too.
"I know Coach has confidence in us," Kvitle said. "We have to have confidence in ourselves."