Capping it the right way: QND rebounds from semifinal loss to win third-place game

March 2, 2023 - Normal, Illinois - Members of the Quincy Notre Dame girls' basketball program celebrate with their Class 2A state trophy. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

The Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball players celebrate with the third-place trophy after beating Chicago Butler College Prep 66-57 in the Class 2A state tournament Thursday at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill. | Photo courtesy Clark Brooks, PhotoNews Media

NORMAL, ill. — Denied their chance at making history, the Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball players wouldn’t be denied their shot at redemption.

An opportunity to reminisce came with it, too.

Forced to play the third-place game of the Class 2A state tournament less than three hours after losing to Breese Mater Dei in the semifinals, the Raiders shed their tears and frustration before regrouping in one of the Redbird Arena locker rooms.

There they cried a little, laughed a lot and shared stories from the past four years that ultimately lightened the mood.

“We sat back and kind of reminisced, and I think that drove a little fire into them and let them have a little fun with this last game,” QND coach Eric Orne said. “The time we had, the time to tell ‘Funny Coach Orne stories’ as they call them, gave them the chance to change the narrative a little bit.” 

By the time they took the floor to face Chicago Butler College Prep at 8:45 p.m. Thursday night, the Raiders’ mood was more determined than despondent. 

The end result was one final victory, a 66-57 triumph that added to the legacy of the senior class and gave the underclassmen something to strive to better in the future.

“Obviously, it’s not the trophy that we wanted,” QND senior guard Abbey Schreacke said after the Raiders finished 35-2 with the 12th state trophy in program history. “But ending the season and ending my high school career with a win is really special.”

The 61-54 loss to Mater Dei, which dashed hopes of back-to-back state championships and ended a 27-game win streak, proved difficult to shake emotionally. Physically, they faced a challenge, too.

The semifinal game ended at 6:15 p.m. and the third-place game tipped at 9 p.m., so Orne kept his team in the locker room as long as possible before warmups. It meant Butler was on the court by itself for nearly 10 minutes.

During that time is when the Raiders changed the tone of the day. 

“It was pretty emotional being the last game together,” Schreacke said. “Like Coach said, we reminisced. It was really fun and a really special time to be together. It was so much more laid back. I wouldn’t say we were messing around, but we were having fun. 

“But at the same time, we still wanted to win the game so we were focused in. But it was pretty laid back.”

It showed in the play. Schreacke hit a 3-pointer five seconds into the game — she had gone 8 of 21 from the field and 2 of 7 from 3-point range in the semifinal — and scored 17 first-half points as the Raiders took a 30-27 lead to the locker room.

Butler switched its defense in the second half, employing a box-and-1 against Schreacke and holding her without a shot in the third quarter. Blair Eftink made certain that didn’t matter.

The senior guard and QND’s all-time leading 3-point shooter went 4 of 5 from 3-point range and scored 14 points in the third quarter as the advantage grew to eight points. She finished 7 of 10 from 3-point range and scored a game-high 29 points, putting quite the cap on her career.

“Incredible effort,” Orne said. “She went out and had fun.”

After exiting the game in the final seconds, Schreacke and Eftink stood on the sideline and embraced — teammates since fifth grade sharing one final moment together in a career that will be remembered for generations.

“I don’t have words to explain how much I love this group and how much I appreciate everything,” Schreacke said.

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