Big leads force top-ranked Raiders to dig deep to stay focused and energetic

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Quincy Notre Dame guard Sage Stratton, left, looks to make a pass while being guard by Illini West's Elly Krieg during Thursday night's game at The Pit. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — Maybe this was inevitable.

Coming off a 53-point victory and riding the momentum of a double-digit win streak, the Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team built a 21-point halftime lead Thursday night against Illini West. That’s when it happened.

Complacency set in.

The Raiders, ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, were never in danger of losing the lead, but a ragged first three minutes of the third quarter set the tone for a sluggish second half in which the lead dwindled to 15. Ultimately, QND won 44-24 at The Pit, but Raiders coach Eric Orne walked away less than satisfied after his team’s 14th consecutive victory.

“Our first three minutes of the second half put us in a rut,” Orne said. “We just didn’t do the things we had been doing. We didn’t cut hard. We got stagnant. We didn’t have the sense of urgency we played with in the first half.

“And like I told the players, at this time of year, if you do have a good first half, you want to come out and build off that. We unfortunately didn’t do that.”

Orne had no quibbles with the first half.

The Raiders (21-1) scored the first seven points in the West Central Conference tilt and held the Chargers scoreless the first 3 minutes, 10 seconds. QND led 16-8 at the end of the first quarter, but Illini West scored the first basket of the second quarter to make it a two-possession game.

QND scored the next 15 points, holding Illini West scoreless for more than seven minutes and going to halftime ahead 31-10.

“I thought we had good energy,” Orne said. “What we were doing, both offensively and defensively, worked well. Illini West was trying to slow the game down and play a different style. From our standpoint, we were good. We didn’t hit shots like we did Saturday (in a 73-20 victory over Rock Island), and we were off from 3-point range.

“But you have to adjust. We will talk about our effort, and it’s something we will learn from because we cannot have that happen.”

Meanwhile, Illini West (14-12) is fighting for consistency.

“We’ve been struggling to put four good quarters together,” Chargers coach Grant Surprenant said. “It’s been three good quarters and one bad quarter. Especially against the No. 1 team in the state, you can’t have that. There were some positives out of this, but at the end of the day, we have to put four quarters together.”

Abbey Schreacke led the Raiders with 21 points, while Rylee Reed scored eight points for the Chargers, who have lost five consecutive games — four to state-ranked teams.

“I hope we see the payback in the postseason,” Surprenant said. “It’s been a tough stretch.”

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