‘Money, it’s gotta be the shoes’: Switch to old sneakers gets QND’s Eftink back in rhythm as Raiders win third straight road game

Eftink vs. Mater Dei

Quincy Notre Dame guard Blair Eftink, right, drives in for a basket during Saturday's game against Breese Mater Dei at the Dennis V. Trame Center in Breese, Ill. | Photo courtesy Jeremy Chawgo

BREESE, Ill. — Unable to find her long-range shooting stroke recently, Quincy Notre Dame senior guard Blair Eftink elected to change one key component to her game.

Money, it’s gotta be the shoes.

Switching to her old kicks this weekend, Eftink regained her perimeter shot by burying her first five 3-point attempts Saturday afternoon. Her early barrage — and a key fourth-quarter trey — carried the top-ranked QND girls basketball team to a 44-32 win over Breese Mater Dei at the Dennis V. Trame Center.

Eftink, who surpassed the career 1,000-point mark in the first quarter, connected on six of her eight attempts from beyond the arc. The total matched her 3-point shooting line in a 57-38 win at Belleville Althoff on Friday.

So why the change in apparel?

“My dad (Chad) said I have to change what I’ve been doing,” said Eftink, who finished with a game-high 20 points while wearing the same sneakers she wore her first three varsity seasons. “… I don’t think he meant my shoes, but it came to my head and I said, ‘I’ll just try them out.’”

On the first possession of the game, she splashed a trey from the right wing. On the next, it was from the top of the key. Two possessions later, she converted another one.

Eftink needed less than two minutes to swish three 3-pointers.

“She’s got her rhythm back,” said QND senior Abbey Schreacke, who added 16 points. “She’s just knocking down good shots for us.”

By the time the first quarter ended, Eftink had 15 points and the Raiders held a 20-4 lead.

Over the next 17 minutes, 1 second, though, QND (11-1) scored just six points.

Turnovers — the Raiders committed 10 in that stretch — and frigid shooting — they were 2 of 19 from the field — allowed Mater Dei (7-2) to erase the deficit and tie the game after Alyssa Koerkenmeier converted two foul shots with 7:09 left in regulation.

“Mater Dei’s height gave us a lot of trouble,” QND coach Eric Orne said. “We just weren’t executing on getting the ball inside. We ended up playing their style of play.”

Quincy Notre Dame guard Abbey Schreacke attacks on the dribble during Saturday’s game against Breese Mater Dei at the Dennis V. Trame Center in Breese, Ill. | Photo courtesy Jeremy Chawgo

From the second through fourth quarters, the Knights went on a 22-6 run.

“That was stressful,” Eftink said. “We had to regroup and get things going.”

Schreacke lit the spark.

Ten seconds after Koerkenmeier’s free throws, Schreacke ended the field goal drought by converting a 15-foot jumper. After forcing a turnover, the Raiders increased the lead to 31-26 on a Schreacke 3-pointer.

“We were waiting all game for (Schreacke) to make her move,” said Mater Dei assistant Terri Souder, who was coaching in place of Craig Zurliene (illness). “We know she’s a fantastic player. We did anticipate it.”

After a missed shot on their next possession, the Knights applied more pressure to Schreacke at the top of the key. The result was a skip pass to Eftink in the right corner for her sixth 3-pointer and a 34-26 advantage with 5:23 remaining.

“She’s been doing that her whole life,” Schreacke said of Eftink. “She’s always been a sharpshooter. When she gets her rhythm and a hot hand, you have to guard her.”

The Raiders, playing their third road game in as many days, limited Mater Dei to one fourth-quarter field goal and converted all 10 foul shots in the frame. Asked what happened in the Knights’ finishing stretch, Souder quickly pointed to Eftink’s first quarter as the reason for their defeat.

Eftink had more 3-pointers (five) than Mater Dei had points (four).

“Gamechanger,” Souder said. “Hitting those threes right off the bat was a killer.”

The shoes clearly made the difference.

“I have to keep them now,” Eftink said with a laugh. “I don’t think my teammates will let me change them back.”

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