Hall of Fame Inductee - 1989-90 Boys Basketball Team
Barely had the dust settled on the 1988-89 season when Jerry Leggett announced the 1989-90 season would be his last as the Quincy High School boys basketball coach. “That wasn’t easy for him,” Leggett’s wife, Jane, said. “He loved the kids. He always said Quincy kids were different. They worked harder. They were more committed. He hated walking away from that, but he knew he had a chance to do something special with that final team.” Expectations for the group were high from the start. “We grew up going to the state tournament in junior high,” all-state guard Todd Wemhoener said. “Then I went as a freshman with the ’87 team. There was no thought we weren’t going to make it. We all believed we were a state-caliber team.” Expectations grew when Derek Banta transferred from Payson Seymour High School to Quincy that fall. “It made us a better team,” Wemhoener said. “It gave us another option.” Expectations surged when Quincy nearly knocked off the No. 1 team in the nation the opening weekend of the season. In the championship game of the Thanksgiving Tournament, Chicago King’s Jamie Brandon scored 34 points and King shot 55.9 percent from the field, but the Blue Devils forced the Jaguars into 25 turnovers and Quincy had the ball trailing 56-54 with 36 seconds to play. Playing for one shot, the Blue Devils took a timeout with 11 seconds remaining to set up the final play. Lamar Rudd got the ball to Banta along the baseline, but his shot from the corner rimmed out to allow King to escape. “We didn’t know how good we were,” said Kevin Bybee, a senior reserve for Quincy. “It proved to us we could play with anybody.” The Blue Devils finished the regular season 20-5, having won nine of their final 10 games. The momentum carried over to the postseason. Quincy won its first four postseason games by an average of 25 points. In the sectional final against Champaign Central, the Blue Devils opened on a 9-0 run, got a season-high 33 points from Wemhoener and rolled to an 82-62 victory that assured Quincy a berth in the Peoria Super-sectional. Awaiting the Blue Devils was Peoria Manual, which carried a 26-game winning streak and No. 2 state ranking into the game. Quincy built a 29-24 halftime lead, but it didn’t mean they could forget about Howard Nathan. The Manual all-state guard, scored 34 points and hit one clutch shot after another. His 3-pointer with 19 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter tied the game at 57. During a timeout with 11 seconds to play, Leggett set up an out-of-bounds play designed for an easy basket. Rudd inbounded from the baseline, tossing a lob to Johnson in the lane. Johnson caught the ball between two defenders and took a shot that rimmed off the left side of the basket. He instinctively attacked the rebound and muscled his way to the basket, drawing a foul. Up to this point, the Blue Devils had made only 15 of 28 free throws and Johnson was only a 62 percent free throw shooter. “I knew I had to make the first one,” Johnson said. He swished the first one, giving Quincy a 58-57 lead. His second attempt was off line, and in his haste to go after the rebound, Johnson was whistled for a lane violation. Still, Manual had to go the length of the floor in eight seconds and get a shot for the chance to win. Surprisingly, the Rams got two attempts. Nathan raced upcourt, drove the left side of the floor and watched his runner carom off the rim. Rams forward Mike Grayer grabbed the rebound and looked for a putback, but he never got the shot off before the buzzer sounded. Leggett and the Blue Devils had stormed the floor in celebration when the buzzer sounded, not hearing the official’s whistle indicating a foul had been called on Johnson on the rebound. Shocked by the call, the Blue Devils went back to the bench and Grayer went to the free throw line for a one-and-one situation. “You go from high emotions that you’re going to win to not knowing what is going to happen,” Wemhoener said. “It was tense.” An 80-percent free throw shooter, Grayer missed the front end of the bonus situation as he shot popped out of the cylinder. “Unbelievable,” Johnson said. It gave Quincy the chance to end Leggett’s tenure with a storybook ending. The Blue Devils beat Chicago Heights Bloom 54-51 in the quarterfinals and advanced to face Gordon Tech in the state semifinals. Just 1:08 into the second quarter, Gordon Tech defender Brian Allen collided with Wemhoener and accidentally kneed him in the back of the thigh. Wemhoener went down, grabbing his leg as he was helped off the floor. The deep thigh bruise sidelined him the rest of the tournament. “That let the air out of our tires,” Rudd said. “The look on Todd’s face, that demoralized us.” Gordon Tech’s Tom Kleinschmidt took advantage of the demoralized Blue Devils. He scored a game-high 38 points and fueled a 20-2 run by the Rams, who took 47-45 lead at the end of the third quarter and picked up a 71-62 victory. With little time to dwell on the what happened, Quincy had to prepare for its third-place game against East St. Louis Lincoln. “It’s my job to get them ready,” Leggett told reporters in the post-game press conference. “That won’t be easy.” The Blue Devils refused to settle for a sub-par effort. “We wanted Coach Leggett to go out in style,” Bybee said. The Blue Devils took a 58-57 lead on consecutive layups by Rudd and Ted Meyer before all-stater Cuonzo Martin put Lincoln back in front 59-58 with a reverse layup with two minutes to play. Quincy maintained possession until 10 seconds were left Rudd tossed an inbounds pass to Johnson on the left block, but as he tried to make a move, the ball was poked away and bounced to Rudd standing along the baseline. He knocked down the 8-foot jumper with six seconds left, putting Quincy up 60-59. The Tigers responded with a memorable dash to the finish. They went end-to-end in 4.9 seconds and Chris McKinney buried an 18-foot jumper at the buzzer for the 61-60 victory. It left Quincy holding the fourth-place trophy, but Leggett stood at midcourt with a medallion dangling from his neck and smile stretched across his face. “He appreciated the effort those kids gave,” Jane Leggett said.
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