Any hopes the Rock Island boys' basketball team had of winning a fourth consecutive Western Big 6 Conference title were out of their hands early Friday evening.
Once the night ended, the Rocks retained their grasp.
Rocky remained in the Big 6 race with a 61-51 victory over United Township at Rock Island Fieldhouse, but the most important win was 45 miles south of the Quad-Cities. With Galesburg handing league-leading Quincy a 62-58 loss at John Thiel Gymnasium, the Rocks officially were back in the league race.
Now a conference championship rests in Rocky's hands.
"It's get-after-it time," Rocky senior Brian Richardson said after learning the Blue Devils suffered their first Big 6 loss. "We're going to go full speed. We have a chance. We don't want to shoot ourselves in the foot."
Two games out with four to play prior to their game, the Rocks (17-4, 5-2 Big 6) now are tied with Galesburg and trail Quincy by one game with three weeks remaining. Rocky hosts the Silver Streaks next Friday before hosting Quincy in the regular-season finale on Feb. 22.
Better yet, the Rocks control their title destiny. By winning out, they can clinch no worse than a share of the Big 6 crown.
"The goal is to try and win every Friday night," Rocky coach Thom Sigel said. "That (Galesburg-Quincy) score doesn't change anything. What it might do is say that Galesburg rebounded (from a 57-56 loss to Moline last Friday) and will be fired up to play. But we have to play every Friday. That's all we can control right now."
While Rocky was subdued in the locker room when it found out the Quincy-Galesburg final score, the evidence was there that one eye remained on Quincy's game. Even those in the stands were anxiously awaiting scores, cheering when it was announced Galesburg took leads into intermission and the fourth quarter.
Thirty minutes after winning their fourth consecutive game, the Rocks realized they had a chance.
"We were praying," Richardson said.
First, the Rocks had to handle their own business. Another slow start kept Rocky from taking control as the Panthers (3-19, 1-6) limited turnovers and constantly knocked down shots through the first quarter.
Midway through the second frame, Rocky used a 12-2 run to get its first double-digit lead. After that, the Rocks never let their lead dip into single digits.
"We had some key stretches where we couldn't make plays," said UT coach Marc Polite, who received 12 points from Deveric Rogers and nine from Raymond Terronez. "Rock Island had some stretches where they showed their physicality and made some plays we weren't able to make."
At times, Rocky displayed its ability to create points in transition, off turnovers and from the perimeter.
Another factor was the bench, which scored 26 points.Trae Babers was the catalyst for the reserves, finishing with a team-high 12 points and grabbing two steals.
"He's playing great," Richardson said of Babers. "He's hitting big shots for us. He keeps getting better."
Rocky, which shot 42.9 percent (18 of 42) from the field, received 10 points, eight rebounds and five assists from C.J. Carr, plus nine points from Keenan Shorter.
All that led to another win. Next up is a closing stretch that features three must-win Big 6 games, with two home contests sandwiched around a trip to Moline's Wharton Field House.
"It's going to be intense," Richardson said. "We've got to turn it on."
Today is Tuesday, May 21, the 141st day of 2013. There are 224 days left in the year. 1863 -- 150 years ago: On Monday the 11th inst. on Center Ridge in Mercer County,some citizens got out their cannon to celebrate the taking of Richmond. The gun wasoverloaded and burst. No one was injured, but one 30-pound piece went though thesecond story of a house. 1888 -- 125 years ago: The old folks concert at the Harper Theater last night to benefit St.Luke's Cottage Hospital, attracted a large audience. 1913 -- 100 years ago: Unless depredation by vandals in Rock Island parks is halted,special policemen will be assigned to night duty to protect the flowers and other property. 1938 -- 75 years ago: Station WHBF has received a special citation from Washington forits participation in Air Mail Week, which was observed this week throughout the nation. 1963 -- 50 years ago: A 10-year high in employment in the Quad-City area was reachedat the end of the last quarter, according to an industrial employment barometer releasedtoday. 1988 -- 25 years ago: Pee Wee teams will be able to play baseball and softball as usualon Diamond Three at Dorrance Park this summer, but after that, the ball field is doomed.County crews have put the diamond back in shape after heavy trucks marred the playingfield earlier this spring. Illinois Department of Transportation crews drove onto it to makeborings for the relocation of the junction of Illinois 84 and the Port Byron-Hillsdale road.