Raiders’ size, experience takes over in second half, carries them into regional championship game
QUINCY — A combination of size and experience can carry a team. It’s what helped lift the Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball team to a sectional championship appearance a year ago.
Wednesday night’s start to the postseason showed the Raiders are banking on it again.
Senior post players Jake Wallingford and Alex Connoyer dominated on the inside as the Raiders defeated Illini West 75-47 in the Class 2A QND regional semifinals at The Pit.
But QND needed a third-quarter surge to erase an erratic second quarter which saw a double-digit lead dwindle to a 32-26 advantage at halftime.
“An inexperienced team would have let them keep on rolling,” said Wallingford, who had 16 points and 12 rebounds. “Luckily we had halftime to go in and talk about it, and we went out there and executed the game plan (in the second half).”
The Raiders (22-8) went on a 14-2 run to start the second half and outscored the Chargers 22-8 in the third quarter to build a 20-point advantage entering the fourth quarter.
“We had to go into half and readjust and make some changes,” QND coach Kevin Meyer said. “I thought our rotations were much better in the third quarter. It allowed us to get out to a 20-point lead and we finished it off in the fourth quarter.”
Connoyer had a team-high 20 points and pulled down nine rebounds. He had eight of those points in the third quarter, and junior Aiden Klauser scored six of his eight points in the same frame.
“We have four guys that can go inside and give you all kinds of different looks,” Meyer said. “We’ve got Jake who’s 6-8 and plays above the rim, Alex is our bulldog that’s going to get fouled and finish, Josh (Bocke) is kind of our playmaker, and then Klauser was big for us in that third quarter. He got a couple steals and scored baskets. I thought the difference was our bigs.”
Walligford said the halftime break was important to reset their focus.
“At halftime, we keyed in on defense and we went out and executed perfectly,” he said. “We closed out on threes and didn’t let them drive to the middle and go where they wanted. That helped a bunch.
“We kicked it into high gear.”
QND senior Jackson Stratton contributed nine points, four rebounds, and a team-high four assists.
Nolan Dietrich had a game-high 23 points for Illini West (20-13).
The Raiders quickly shift their focus to Friday night’s regional championship where a rematch awaits with West Hancock. QND won the regular season matchup 73-56 at The Pit only eight days ago. The Titans beat Macomb 65-42 in the other regional semifinal.
“West Hancock has a lot of motivation on their side after we played them last week,” Meyer said. “We’ll be prepared. I think our guys are hungry. They have a few things on their plate that they want to accomplish, and it starts on Friday night.”
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