David Adam

Two set to join list of great teams to play in Blue Devil Gym

Peoria Central's Shaun Livingston, shown making a pass while being defended by Quincy High School's Nate Sparrow in this January 2004 game, went on to lead the Lions to back-to-back state championships. | H-W File Photo
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Jan. 22, 2018 8:05 am Updated: Jan. 22, 2018 9:45 pm

Webster Groves, Mo., and Sunrise Christian Academy from Wichita, Kan., are being touted as two of the best teams ever to play in Blue Devil Gym when they participate in the QHS Shootout this weekend.

Believe the hype.

Sunrise Christian, which will play twice in Quincy but not against the Blue Devils, has been as high as No. 10 in the USA Today national poll and now sits at No. 19. It has nine international players, and 7-footer N'Faly Dante from Mali in West Africa is ranked among the top 10 sophomores by ESPN.

Courtney Ramey, the reigning St. Louis Post-Dispatch Player of the Year, and Saint Louis University signee Carte'Are Gordon are back for the defending Missouri Class 5 state champions. Both are ranked among the top 75 seniors by ESPN.

Ramey was sidelined with a broken wrist until Jan. 4, which explains why the Statesmen are 8-6 against a loaded schedule. However, Webster Groves recently defeated Mount Vernon, ranked No. 24 by USA Today and New York's defending public-school state champion.

So who are the best teams to visit Blue Devil Gym since it opened in December 1957? See what you think of this list.

1958-59 Springfield

The Senators went 33-1 under Coach Ray Page and All-Stater Tom Cole, who went on to be a three-year starter at the University of Michigan. Springfield came to Quincy in November 1958, and the score was tied at 31 with less than five minutes to play before the Senators pulled away. Cole had 17 points for Springfield. William Henderson led the Blue Devils with 16.

1964-65 Collinsviille

The Blue Devils and Kahoks met in the state championship game, and Collinsville won 55-52. However, the teams also met in February 1965 in Blue Devil Gym in the last game of the regular season. Collinsville (30-2), coached by legendary Vergil Fletcher, won 64-63 behind 29 points from All-Stater Dennis Pace, who went on to play at Illinois. The Blue Devils' Gary Thompson missed a 22-footer as time expired.

1968-69 Harvey Thornton

The Wildcats were ranked No. 1 in the state when they came to Quincy in January 1969 to face the No. 2-ranked Blue Devils. Thornton was led by junior Lloyd Batts, who was named the Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year in 1970 when he averaged 35 points per game as a senior. He went on to play collegiately at Cincinnati and briefly with the ABA's Virginia Squires.

The Blue Devils made 20 of their first 27 shots and defeated Thornton 81-67. Jeff Stollberg led QHS with 20 points, Bruce Ator had 19 points and Beanie Hickman added 17. Batts had 29 for the Wildcats. Neither team made it to the state tournament that year, both losing in the super sectional -- Quincy to Galesburg and Thornton to Waukegan.

1977-78 Chicago Westinghouse

The Warriors came to Quincy in February 1978 with guard Skip Dillard and 6-foot-7 Mark Aguirre. They both went on to play at DePaul, which was ranked No. 1 in 1980. Aguirre was the college player of the year in 1981, then played for 14 years in the NBA and won two championships with the Detroit Pistons.

Dave Pettit made two free throws with no time on the clock to force overtime, and Terry Thompson hit a seven-foot shot with one second left in overtime to help the Blue Devils defeat Westinghouse 62-60. Aguirre scored 20 points, and Steve Ball had 26 for QHS. Westinghouse eventually lost to Isiah Thomas and Westchester St. Joseph in the quarterfinals.

1980-81 Chicago Phillips

East St. Louis pulled out of the Thanksgiving Tournament, and Phillips turned out to be quite the replacement. Phillips was led by 5-9 Carl Golston, who averaged 26 points as a junior and was ranked as one of the top 25 players in the nation before going on to Loyola-Chicago.

The closest game for the eventual state champion Blue Devils was a 76-75 overtime victory over Phillips in November 1980. Michael Payne missed a 20-footer in the waning seconds, but Dennis Douglas grabbed the weakside rebound and scored. Golston fouled out with 3:20 to play in regulation and finished with 21 points. Bruce Douglas led QHS with 34 points.

1989-90 Chicago King

The Jaguars came to Quincy's Thanksgiving Tournament in November 1989 ranked No. 1 by USA Today. Jamie Brandon, who was named Mr. Basketball in 1990 and played alongside Shaquille O'Neal at LSU, led the team, but King also had 6-3 Ahmad Shareef, who played at Pittsburgh; 6-6 Johnny Selvie, who played at New Mexico State; 6-10 Damian Porter, who played at Central Michigan; and 6-11 freshman Rashard Griffith, who was Mr. Basketball in 1993 and played two seasons at Wisconsin. The coach was colorful and controversial Landon "Sonny" Cox.

The Blue Devils trailed by seven points with 1:56 left to play but had the ball with seven seconds left, trailing 56-54. Derek Banta's 3-pointer from the right corner grazed off the rim. Brandon scored 34 for King.

King won the state title with a 32-0 record. A state title game rematch was ruined when Quincy lost to Gordon Tech in the semifinals of the state tournament.

1995-96 Cardinal Ritter

The Lions, ranked No. 25 in a national preseason poll, featured 7-foot-1 Loren Woods, who went to Wake Forest, and Duke-bound Chris Carrawell. However, the Blue Devils stunned Cardinal Ritter 60-55 in the title game of the Thanksgiving Tournament in November 1995. Juan Martinez, an exchange student from the Dominican Republic, had 16 points and 14 rebounds in his first weekend with the Blue Devils. Woods and Carrawell combined for just 19 points.

2003-04 Peoria Central

Shaun Livingston was heralded as the top prep player in the country, and he lived up to the billing as he had 28 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocked shots in a 69-62 victory over the Blue Devils in January 2004. Brooks Allen had 24 for Quincy.

Livingston, who led the Lions to back-to-back Class AA state titles, had committed to Duke but was drafted with the fourth overall pick in the 2004 draft by the Los Angeles Clippers. He has been part of two NBA champions with the Golden State Warriors.

Other teams of note

Chicago Manley, which won the 1980 state title, was led by Russell Cross, a McDonald's All-American who went on to play at Purdue and get selected in the first round of the 1983 NBA Draft by the Golden State Warriors.

The Wildcats were scheduled to play in Blue Devil Gym in early February 1980, but the game was postponed because of the 10-day Chicago teachers' strike. The game was rescheduled for Feb. 22, but it eventually was cancelled because of a conflict in Manley's Public League schedule.

Blue Devils coach Jerry Leggett said his program lost $9,000 because of the cancellation, and the team claimed a forfeit victory.

"They don't understand what it means to cancel a basketball game down here," Leggett said at the time.

Several great Rock Island teams have visited Blue Devil Gym.

The 1990 team was 27-0 and ranked No. 2 behind King, but it often is forgotten because it lost in the regional to Galesburg. (The Rocks won 70-62 in Quincy that season.) The 1996 team, which starred Pete Mickeal and the Jenkins brothers (Monte and Corey), went 29-2 but lost in the state quarterfinals. That team's only other loss was 80-64 to the Blue Devils in Quincy.

Don't forget Chaisson Randle's team that went 30-3 and won the Class 3A state title in 2011. That Rocks team won 60-54 in Blue Devil Gym in January 2011.

United Township's 1970 team that lost to undefeated LaGrange in the state title game, and it also lost 49-46 in Blue Devil Gym in February 1970. Galesburg finished second in the state 1966 and 1968, but the 1998 team led by Iowa-bound Joey Range seems to be considered the best in school history. The Silver Streaks won 53-48 in Blue Devil Gym that season, and they eventually lost to a loaded Whitney Young team in the state title game.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The location of Sunrise Christian was incorrect in a previous version of this story.