Moline girls' basketball coach Steve Ford wasn't afraid to say it.
He's glad his Maroons caught the Quincy Blue Devils, losers of 29 straight Western Big 6 games after a 46-42 Moline win at Wharton Field House on Thursday night, early in the conference schedule.
"I think they showed signs against United Township, against Galesburg and against us. They are going to win some games. I'm glad we were able to battle them and pull it out."
Quincy coach Demond Dade is less shy about just how many games he thinks his Blue Devils, now 4-5 but 0-3 in the WB6, can win.
"We could be 3-0; we should be 3-0" in the Big 6, Dade emphatically stated. "I'm proud of our girls; we are working on mental toughness. For so long, we have been the whipping post of the Big 6, been laughed at. But at some point, we've got to catch a fair break.
"Against Galesburg, they shot 24 free throws in a three-minute overtime, and I don't even know how that's possible. And we shot eight all game this game." And was 8-of-8.
"Our mantra, and I don't know if you heard it as we came out of the locker room, is that we still want to be conference champs. It is going to take getting some help, but we need to start taking care of business."
That's a mouthful considering Quincy hasn't won in the Big 6 since the sixth game of 2009. Yet, it did seem as if they had outplayed the Maroons (4-6, 2-1), forcing 24 turnovers and outrebounding the hosts 30-25.
"That pressure was pretty extreme," Ford said of the Blue Devil defense.
In fact, Moline needed every ounce of fortitude from its top two of Morgan Gerard and Becky Lankford. Gerard hit 9-of-14 shots en route to 20 points to go with six rebounds. Lankford was one rebound shy of a double-double, with 10 points and nine boards.
"Becky was outstanding; I don't think she ever sat down except for maybe timeouts," Ford said of his center. "And yet, she still hit that 3" midway through the fourth quarter to give Moline some breathing room at 43-38.
Lankford hobbled out of the locker room, but it wasn't from only playing hard for 32 minutes at both ends of the court. "I twisted my ankle toward the end of the game," she explained. "This was a conference game and we really wanted it. A lot of people were not giving us a lot of credit going into the season, but we proved we can win and we will."
The same holds true for Quincy.
The Devils were hurt by 2-of-21 shooting beyond the arc, and a 3-of-15 from the field in the fourth quarter. Quincy entered that frame up by a point. That lead got to three (38-35) before two Jordan de los Reyes free throws and back-to-back 3s by Gerard and Lankford turned the tide.
And by the time de los Reyes closed it out with two more free throws with 13 seconds left, Moline was able to breathe a sigh of relief that the Devils didn't end their streak against it.
"We didn't say anything" to the girls about Quincy's 28 straight, Ford said. "I'm happy we got better and still got a win. All Thursdays in the Big 6 are going to be like that."
And the way the Blue Devils have played, one of those upcoming Thursdays just might provide the break they've sought to break that skid.
Today is Wednesday, Dec. 11, the 345th day of 2013. There are 20 days left in the year. 1863 — 150 years ago: The message of Abraham Lincoln, read in congress yesterday, is published in full in our paper today, with a new proclamation relating the terms upon which states can return to the union. 1888 — 125 years ago: An appropriation has been made by congress for the improvement of the upper Mississippi River with $200,000 set aside for the portion of the river between Keokuk and the mouth of the Illinois River. 1913 — 100 years ago: Work of remodeling First Swedish Lutheran Church at 4th Avenue and 14th Street was nearly completed. 1938 — 75 years ago: An unexplained outbreak of tularemia (rabbit fever) in the state has Illinois public health officials puzzled. Ten persons have died, and 243 are officially reported ill with the infection. 1963 — 50 years ago: A dramatic, multi-million dollar riverfront improvement project for the downtown area of Rock Island was unveiled at a meeting of 200 civic leaders at noon today. 1988 — 25 years ago: For several supporters of the Dispatch Goodfellow/Argus Santa program their donation is a year long project. Emma Pugh and Anne Persinger spent a good part of their spare time this year knitting forty pairs of mittens and slippers.