Inspired by pregame chat, Stratton carries scoring load for top-ranked Raiders in victory over Cardinals

Sage Stratton

Quincy Notre Dame sophomore guard Sage Stratton scored 23 points to power the Raiders past Pleasant Plains on Tuesday night at The Pit. | Muddy River Sports file photo

QUINCY — When you face the No. 1-ranked girls basketball team in Class 2A with the reigning state player of the year, the goal becomes quite obvious.

Slow down Abbey Schreacke.

Many try. Most fail. Tuesday night, Pleasant Plains succeeded in limiting Schreacke, Quincy Notre Dame’s all-state senior forward, to a season-low 13 points in a matchup of sectional foes at The Pit as Cardinals coach TJ Fraase used senior Teagan Morley to harass Schreacke on the perimeter while the Cardinals double-teamed her in the post.

All that did was create an opportunity for the rest of the Raiders to come through. Sophomore guard Sage Stratton scored 23 points as the Raiders rebounded from their first loss of the season with a 54-43 victory, which snapped the Cardinals’ five-game win streak in the process.

“Stratton had a huge game for us,” Raiders coach Eric Orne said. “Sage and I had a little talk earlier. I told her she was going to need to score more points. And today I think she took that approach. And she really truly saved us tonight.”

Stratton knew she needed to be more aggressive.

“I was just making sure to look for my gaps and my shot,” Stratton said. “If someone was on me, I wasn’t scared because I know I can make it.”

Stratton didn’t waste any time. After the Cardinals’ Jaycee Smith knocked down a 3-pointer on their first possession, Stratton answered with a 3-pointer of her own. That basket led to an eight-point run, putting QND up 11-3 with 3:50 remaining in the first quarter.

QND (8-1) led by six points at the end of the first quarter and six at halftime. In the midst of playing 14 games in 21 days, including their third game in four days, the Raiders showed a bit of fatigue.

“I would say we’re tired,” said Orne, whose team plays five road games in six days beginning Thursday at Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin. “But we’re conditioned to play these tough games, and like I said tonight, we just never found a good groove. I think we’re fighting it on both sides of the ball.”

With 6:15 to play in regulation, Stratton hit her third 3-pointer to give QND its largest lead at 41-29.

But Pleasant Plains (6-3) responded by holding Schreacke without a field goal in the fourth quarter and holding QND without a basket for the next five minutes.

The Cardinals cut the lead to 49-43 before a layup by QND freshmen Jenna Durst with 1:15 to play broke the field goal drought. QND made 12 of 18 fourth-quarter free throws to secure the lead.

Stratton made six free throws in the fourth quarter.

“These games help us in the postseason,” Stratton said. “And that’s why we won last year. We had a bunch of these games last year, and they just help when it really matters.”

Coming through in tough situations builds confidence.

“I told our team that you know, even when things get tough, you’ve got to rise up,” Orne said. “We got to tighten the grip a little bit. These are phases I think teams go through. But I give Coach Fraase a lot of credit. His team was ready to play.”

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