By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
Devontavius Payne smiled only slightly when asked if he liked playing in Blue Devil Gym.
"Yes, sir, I do," the Carbondale senior guard softly said.
His play said so much more.
The left-handed shooting swingman went on a personal 10-0 run in the third quarter Saturday night, pushing aside a rally by the Quincy High School boys basketball team and leading Carbondale to a 59-47 victory and the championship of the 43rd annual QHS Thanksgiving Tournament.
"He's such a tough matchup because he can shoot it and drive it," Quincy coach Sean Taylor said. "We lost him twice and he knocks down shots bang, bang. Then you get up and pressure him and he beats you off the dribble and gets it to the rim. There's a reason why he's getting so many college looks."
That's because he's the complete package.
Payne, who scored 33 points against the Blue Devils in last year's tournament, finished with a game-high 19 points on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point range, while leading the Terriers with five assists and three steals. He also grabbed four rebounds and outscored Quincy himself in the third quarter.
Carbondale (3-0) led 28-22 at halftime before Payne erupted for 13 points in the Terriers' 21-point quarter. Quincy, which scored only one basket over a 5-minute, 27-second span, managed just 11 points and trailed 49-33 going to the fourth quarter.
"He was a little frustrated at halftime, but he was drawing a lot of the attention," said Carbondale coach Jim Miller, whose team lost last year's tournament title on a tiebreaker. "When you draw a lot of attention, it means you have to work extremely hard off the basketball. That's a good thing because when the attention is based on you other people come open.
"When he started working hard, the ball started finding him in easier spots."
Payne went 5 of 5 from the field in the third quarter, hitting three 3-pointers.
"We just came out and played hard," said Payne, who earned the Paul Dennis Most Valuable Player Award. "We moved around on offense and stepped up on defense."
Yet, the Terriers couldn't put the Blue Devils (2-1) away until the final minute.
Lincoln Elbe hit back-to-back 3-pointers to cut the deficit to 53-44 with 2:05 to play. Carbondale then whittled 49 seconds off the clock before Allen Billinger was fouled on a drive to the basket. He made the shot, converted the free throw and essentially ended Quincy's last-ditch effort.
"I thought we played the best game of the tournament tonight, but unfortunately, we played against a really, really good team," Taylor said. "We did a lot of great things, and we can build off those things."
The one place the Blue Devils struggled was up front.
Quincy managed just nine points from its three senior forwards -- Connor Mellon, Barnell Thomas and Luka Radovic -- and got destroyed on the boards. Carbondale owned a 38-20 rebounding advantage overall after outrebounding Quincy 19-8 in the first half.
"The defensive presence without fouling and the containment of the post was a major factor for us going in," Miller said. "It was an emphasis during the shootaround. Our kids followed the game plan, executed and made it very difficult on their post players."
The Terriers grabbed 11 offensive rebounds and had 10 second-chance points in the first half. Overall, Carbondale had 15 offensive rebounds and 12 second-chance points.
"Our initial defense was solid," Taylor said. "If we can shore up the rebounding and control the defensive glass, we have an opportunity to get better."
It will help not having to face Payne in a gym he found much to his liking.
"He likes playing in every gym," Miller said.