Home is where victories are: QND girls run win streak at The Pit to 24 straight by beating Palmyra


Quincy Notre Dame's Tristan Pieper, right, attempts to block a shot by Palmyra's Candra King during Tuesday night's game at The Pit. | David Adam photo

QUINCY — Above all else, protect The Pit.

That’s more or less an unwritten rule when it comes to the Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team.

The Raiders’ home floor — a.k.a. The Pit — is more than a safe haven for the QND team. It has become a full-fledged basketball sanctuary for one of the state’s premier small-school programs.  

The QND girls simply embrace the place, and Tuesday night was a prime example.

Notre Dame withstood a second-half charge from cross-river rival Palmyra to secure a 45-35 victory, raising its record to 9-1.

The Raiders have won 24 straight at The Pit, a streak that began late in the 2021-22 season. And don’t think such an accomplishment is taken for granted. 

“It’s important to us,” sophomore point guard Ari Buehler said. 

QND has also won 39 of its last 40 at home.

“We know we can’t let people come in here and beat us,” Buehler added.

And they don’t, at least not very often. The last school to defeat the Raiders at The Pit was perennial Class 4A Southwestern Conference power Edwardsville, 66-54 back on Feb. 5, 2021. The all-time school record for consecutive home wins is 41.

Raiders coach Eric Orne, whose program reached 1,000 victories earlier this month, felt the win over previously unbeaten Palmyra (5-1) was important for another reason outside of prolonging the home-court streak.

“We have to grow up a little bit and start playing like we are 10 games into the season,” he said.

QND looked as if it had dealt Palmyra an early knockout punch when it met little resistance in building what appeared to be a comfortable 25-15 halftime lead. Moments into the fourth quarter, however, Palmyra had trimmed the margin to 34-32.

Notre Dame regrouped, largely behind the inside play of 6-foot sophomore Tristan Pieper, who scored seven of her team-leading 14 points across the final seven minutes when QND outscored Palmyra 11-3.

“I was having trouble knocking down my outside shot, so I went down low to try and score inside,” Pieper said. “My teammates got me the ball. I know they always have my back.”

Palmyra coach Kelsey Stuart, whose club was coming off a 64-61 victory over South Shelby in the finals of the 99th Monroe City Invitational, enjoyed the challenge of facing QND at The Pit.

“We were ready, and I’m extremely proud of the way our girls played,” Stuart said. “I think rebounding and turnovers were the key. Those were the two things I talked to them about after the game.”

The key rebounding stat saw QND outboard Palmyra 18-9 in the second half, including 8-3 in the fourth quarter. For the game, Palmyra committed 19 turnovers and QND 13.

Palmyra’s loss overshadowed a milestone performance for the Panthers’ 6-foot senior center, Candra King, who had game highs of 19 points and 12 rebounds. In the second quarter, a King 3-point field goal pushed her career scoring total over 1,000 points.

“I’m so proud of her for reaching 1,000 points,” Stuart said. “She’s worked so hard (to reach that figure), and it was so exciting to watch her bounce back after (a subpar performance against) South Shelby on Saturday.”

Pieper felt the QND defense finally helped turn the tide toward the Raiders.

“We had some strong defensive possessions and forced some transition layups in the second half,” Pieper said.

Pieper also led QND in rebounding with eight.

“Tristan did a great job for us at both ends of the floor,” Orne said. “Sage (Stratton) had a lot of big baskets early and Buehler handled Palmyra’s defensive pressure very well. We did a lot of the little things very well tonight.”

Buehler said QND’s eventual winning formula was a simple one.

“Our ball movement was very important, and we just went back to basics,” she said.

Orne said there was an important intangible, too.

“The big crowd also helped, bringing a lot of energy to the game,” he said. “I think our girls fed off of that environment.”

Stratton scored all 10 of her points in the first half. Jenna Durst (9) and Buehler (8) combined for an additional 17 points. Stratton (5) and Durst (4) combined for nine rebounds.

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