A month ago, the Moline boys' basketball team lost to Rock Island by 30 points.
A night ago, the Maroons took the Rocks to overtime, with Rock Island prevailing 57-46 at Wharton Field House and in the process securing at least a share of the Western Big 6 Conference title for a fourth straight year.
Take it from one who appreciates the month's difference, Rock Island point guard C.J. Carr put it in American Idol terms.
"I'd give them a 10. They played a great game," said Carr. "I'd say they'd be going to Las Vegas."
Still, it's Rock Island that can cash in on a conference title, although the Rocks' locker room seemed a bit subdued -- maybe from having to hang on in a nail-biter, maybe because there's still regular-season business awaiting.
Rock Island got its 20th win against four losses and moved to 7-2 in the Western Big 6. The Rocks host Quincy next Friday, and can win the WB6 outright after Alleman's stunning 61-50 win over Quincy on Friday. If RI loses to Quincy, it could be a three-way tie for first if Galesburg also defeats Alleman.
"Right now I like our grit, how we were able to grind it out," said RI coach Thom Sigel, "but we didn't play well. We're at that point of the season where you've got to do that."
Moline (17-11, 4-5) might have been one ball-control whistle away from having both WB6 leaders fall on the same night and with wins over the top three in the league on three straight Fridays. With the ball and 17 seconds to go and the game tied at 44, Moline was called for carrying, a high-dribble violation, with 4.7 seconds left.
The Rocks could not make it back-to-back Fridays with a 3-pointer at the buzzer, Trae Babers getting a decent look from the right side.
In OT, it was all Rock Island. Moline didn't score until a Derrick Stabler basket with :27 left, and the Rocks had gone up 53-44 by then, benefitting from being in the double bonus. The Rocks were 9-of-10 from the free-throw line in OT.
"We got what we wanted and that was to keep it close and have a chance to win at the end," said Moline coach Jeff Schimmel, whose Maroons were 3-0 in the WB6 since 2013 began. "It just didn't go our way at the end."
The biggest eye-opener of the night was Jed Wood, Moline's sharpshooting guard. He singlehandedly took on the Rocks in the first half and prevailed. With Moline holding a 26-19 halftime lead, Wood had 19 points, with 11 points and three steals in the second quarter alone. While Wood was 6-of-11 shooting in the first half, 4-of-8 on 3s, the rest of the Maroons were 2-of-11 and 0-for-4.
Wood finished with 28 points, four steals, five rebounds and a blocked shot.
"I was feeling hot and the guys were getting me the ball," said the Moline senior who has a 10-point scoring average. "We just had nothing left in the overtime."
"He had a great half and kept us in it," Schimmel said of Wood. "All of our guys played a good three quarters. The third quarter probably got us."
That was when the Rocks held Moline to just six points to pull to within one at 32-31. Still, Moline led 38-34 midway through the fourth, and 44-42 with a minute to go. A pair of Raahsaan Brown free throws with :38 left were the last points in regulation.
Rock Island put three in double figures, led by Carr's 17. Keenan Shorter came off the bench for 13 points and Brown with 11.
Moline's Brandon Vice and Rock Island's Brian Richardson had their own little board war, with Vice finishing with 16 rebounds and Richardson with 14.
Both teams are back in action tonight for road games, Moline at Lincoln (6:30 start) and Rock Island at Peoria Manual (7:30).
Today is Tuesday, March 11, the 70th day of 2014. There are 295 days left in the year. 1864 -- 150 years ago: Much damage is being done by hogs that are running at large about town. The marshal will take them up and sell them if their owners do not contain them. 1889 -- 125 years ago: George Newberry, Daniel Strecker, Al Webb and James Dixon returned from a voyage down the Mississippi River as far as Memphis, Tenn., on a flat. 1914 -- 100 years ago: Augustana College was put out of the running for the state collegiate basketball title when defeated by Millikin. The Viking lineup included Sten, Samuelson and Swanbeck, forwards, and Holtgren, Johnson and Berg, guards. 1939 -- 75 years ago: The coronation of Pope Pius XII and preliminary ceremonies were broadcast by WHBF on the Mutual Radio Network. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Reactivation of a portion of the J.I. Case Co, plant in Rock Island as a supplier for component parts for the firm's manufacturing centers at Racine, Wis., or Burlington, Iowa, is under consideration. 1989 -- 25 years ago: Downtown Moline business owners will have a chance to help shape the city's future through a survey being done by the Bi-State Metropolitan Planning Commission.