Nick Doellman’s presence can’t be understated.
Absent the first two games after cutting a tendon on his left index finger during practice on Tuesday, the Quincy High School junior forward returned to the lineup Saturday night when he came off the bench midway through the first quarter.
He grabbed a rebound on his first possession and scored in the lane a minute later. Plus, he put up a fight against Bartonville Limestone center Marquis Lobdell, something Quincy needed. Lobdell ultimately gave Limestone the edge, scoring 24 points and grabbing 10 rebounds and showing why he will be one of the top power forwards in central Illinois. And facing a player with Lobdell's quickness and leaping ability will only make Doellman better.
Although bothered by the injury, Doellman finished with six points and 11 rebounds. He made just 2 of 6 field goals and 2 of 6 free throws — percentages that will increase when the mobility in his finger improves and he no longer has to have his fingers taped.
“Catching the ball, it felt a lot better than when I did it,” Doellman said. “It keeps improving. It should be 100 percent by Friday.”
That’s when the Blue Devils open the Western Big Six Conference slate with a road trip to Moline.
And the Blue Devils realize improvements have to be made if they want to win their third consecutive conference title. Namely, they have to take advantage of their opportunities.
In Saturday night’s 65-54 loss to Limestone, the Blue Devils trailed 17-16 when Rockets guard Demarius Sumrell picked up his third foul with 8.2 seconds left in the first quarter. Doellman missed the front end of the one-and-one situation, and the Blue Devils failed to score despite grabbing the offensive rebound.
Sumrell went to the bench at that point and didn’t return until the start of the second half. Limestone still led 27-26 at that point, meanign nothing changed with the Rockets’ second leading scorer on the bench for more than eight minutes.
Part of it was a failure to convert easy chances. The Blue Devils outrebounded the Rockets 40-27, grabbing 14 offensive rebounds. However, those led to just 11 second-chance points.
Worse yet, the Blue Devils missed 10 layups or putbacks.
Make half of those and a better percentage of their free throws — the Blue Devils were 17 of 29 from the line — and the outcome may have been different.
“It shows us we’re a good enough team to be as good as them or better,” Quincy guard Zach Forbes said. “We’re not there yet. We have to work hard in practice and it will come hopefully.”