Overcoming a number of unforced turnovers, the United Township boys basketball team held off Quincy late to grab a 51-44 Western Big 6 Conference win on Tuesday night.
UT (5-2, 4-2 Big 6) led by only three with 14 seconds to play, but Quincy’s 3-point attempt fell short and the Blue Devils (1-6, 1-5) were forced to foul.
The Panthers hit their free throws in the closing seconds to overcome a 14-turnover outing.
UT coach Ryan Webber said the Panthers must value the ball more in order to be their best.
“It’s all forced or sloppy play, and it’s just driving me crazy right now because we’re not fulfilling our potential, strictly because we turn the ball over too much,” Webber said. “We’re trying to fix those problems and we’re hoping that they fix them by Friday (at home against Moline).”
Webber said finishing layups is also key along with cutting back on turnovers.
“If we could solve those two things … I’m going to ask Santa that for Christmas next year,” Webber said.
Helping to offset the turnovers was UT junior Mahki Johnson, who scored a game-high 17 points and hit 5 of 10 3-pointers.
Johnson sank his only two free throw attempts in the fourth quarter.
“I thought Mahki played great all night long,” Webber said. “He shot it with confidence. He’s a great kid that works extremely hard. He spent a lot of time this week trying to get his release higher and the results of that showed tonight, so I’m really happy for him. He came up huge for us.”
De’Vontay Wright (11 points) was the only other Panther to score in double figures as UT made 9 of 21 3-pointers in the win. Darius Rogers (nine points) worked to find his offensive flow but grabbed eight rebounds.
Malykai Trice (eight rebounds) added nine points for UT, which held Quincy’s leading scorer Jeremiah Talton (nine rebounds) to 15 points on 4 of 16 shooting.
Quincy coach Andy Douglas said missed opportunities cost his team down the stretch.
“We left too many opportunities around the basket and around the perimeter with guys in positions that they normally trust they’ll put them in,” he said. “And some of those just didn’t drop for us tonight.”
Brady Rupert (12 points) hit a 3-pointer to cut UT’s lead to 46-43 with 43 seconds left.
Terron Cartmill then grabbed a steal for Quincy and was fouled on a layup attempt with the Blue Devils down two. He sank one free throw, but Quincy did not score again.
Douglas said his younger players are still gaining experience as Quincy works to close games out.
“I was proud of our effort, we came out with great intensity and we were able to weather their storm a couple times and claw back,” he said. “But we just weren’t able to finish.”
Despite the UT turnovers, Webber was proud of how his team battled against a quick and lengthy Quincy team he says is growing in confidence.
“I was really proud of the defensive effort my guys put forth, making things hard on them all night long,” he said. “If we could just ever value the ball and play sound fundamentally offensively, we’re going to be a handful.”