Catch me if you can: Raiders accept challenge to chase down point guard, thrive in transition

December 27, 2022 - Normal, Illinois -  Quiincy Notre Dame's Jake Hoyt passes the ball to teammate Charlie Lavery in his team's game against Providence St. Mel on Tuesday at the State Farm Holiday Classic. The Raiders defeated the Knights, 73-42. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Quincy Notre Dame point guard Jake Hoyt dishes a pass during Tuesday's game against Providence St. Mel in the opening round of the State Farm Holiday Classic at Normal West High School in Normal, Ill. | Photo courtesy Clark Brooks, PhotoNews Media

NORMAL, Ill. — Fully aware his team’s offense needed to ratchet everything up a notch or two, Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball coach Kevin Meyer presented the Raiders with a challenge heading into the State Farm Holiday Classic.

Catch Jake.

Meyer told his point guard — senior Jake Hoyt — to push the pace at whatever speed necessary and let the rest of the Raiders run him down.

“What we’ve been saying is, ‘Hey, we’ll catch you. You have to run,’” Meyer said. “It’s not his job to slow down. It’s our job to catch him. That’s a weird comment from a coach, but it’s a mentality. He’s one of the fastest guys they’ll play, so let’s push him in tempo.”

Tuesday afternoon, Hoyt ran and the Raiders kept up.

Sparked by a 10-1 run to end the first half, QND sprinted to a 25-point third quarter and throttled Providence St. Mel 73-42 in the opening round of the small school boys bracket at Normal West High School. This was the first time in 10 games the Raiders have scored 60 or more points.

QND had been averaging 46 points per game.

“Coach actually did tell us to do that,” Hoyt said of the “Catch Jake” idea. “It was something to kind of push me to push us as a team in transition. It was more probably metaphorically than literally, but I think it worked.

“We worked really well in transition today. Whether it was me pushing us or our other guards pushing us and getting us down the floor, we got after it and our bigs rim ran and got easy buckets.”

But could anyone actually catch him?

“I don’t feel like there are too many that could,” said Hoyt, who finished with nine points and four assists. “I guess we will find out sometime.”

The game of catch continues Wednesday when fifth-seeded QND (6-4) faces fourth-seeded Rockford Lutheran at 5:30 p.m. at Illinois Wesleyan’s Shirk Center. The Crusaders (9-4) opened with a 78-46 victory over Stanford Olympia.

To reach Thursday’s semifinals, the Raiders will have to prove adept at adapting, much like they did to the Knights’ defensive switch Tuesday.

“We were expecting zone and we saw it,” Meyer said. “We did a decent job attacking it, sharing it, getting paint touches and scoring. So then they had to go man-to-man. Today was one of the first times it felt like we found a rhythm. This was one of the first times when a team has gone zone to man and we’ve stayed in rhythm, worked the ball and got good shots.

“You start figuring some stuff out. I think we found some stuff today that worked.”

That came into focus at the end of the first half.

A 3-pointer by Marco Brown pulled St. Mel within 23-22 with less than three minutes remaining in the first half, but QND answered with back-to-back baskets in the post by Josh Bocke. Aiden Klauser sandwiched a pair of free throws and a layin around a basket by Hoyt to complete a 10-1 run to end the half.

“That gave us a chance to go to the locker room and breathe and also regain our composure,” Meyer said. “We could talk through things a little bit. What were they doing to make those shots? What were they doing to make that run? That’s what we needed to keep doing. Then we go out and score 25 points in the third quarter.”

Alex Connoyer scored off offensive rebounds on the Raiders’ first two possessions of the second half and Jackson Stratton added another putback, sparking a run in which QND scored on five of its first six possessions and built its lead to 16 points.

The advantage grew to 28 points by the end of the third quarter as Connoyer and Klauser each finished with a team-high 11 points.

“We made some shots we had struggled with,” Meyer said. “That’s great to see.”

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