QND girls take down another state-ranked foe as primer for their state championship defense
QUINCY — The physical toll playing a schedule loaded with state-ranked opponents doesn’t seem to have bothered the Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team one iota.
Some of the Raiders even relish playing — and winning — those rough-and-tumble affairs.
“I like physical games,” QND senior guard Blair Eftink said. “I think it gives everyone more energy. Everyone wants to bring it at a higher level.”
Few can match the level the Raiders are playing at on the cusp of the postseason.
The No. 1-ranked team in Class 2A finished off the regular season by withstanding a second-half challenge from Jefferson City (Mo.) Helias with a 52-47 victory Friday night at The Pit. It is the Raiders’ 11th victory against a state-ranked opponent — Helias came in No. 3 in Missouri Class 5 — and gives them a 22-game win streak to carry into Monday’s regional semifinals.
“That was the best way possible we could end the regular season,” QND senior all-stater Abbey Schreacke said.
It mimicked what a super-sectional contest will be like should the Raiders (29-1) get there.
“They were a great matchup for us size-wise, tempo-wise, physicality-wise,” Schreacke said. “It was everything, and we competed with them.”
The Raiders did that for 32 minutes, proving they could grind out possessions on both ends of the floor.
“It was an all-out battle,” QND coach Eric Orne said. “Not only are both teams talented, but both teams were playing hard. You had to hold your composure, and our kids did.”
Helias put that to the test. The Crusaders held the Raiders scoreless the first 2 minutes, 55 seconds of the game and forged a 16-16 tie at the end of the first quarter. QND didn’t gain any separation until the final 30 seconds of the first half.
Eftink buried a 3-pointer to double the Raiders’ lead at 29-23, and following a defensive stop, Schreacke nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 3.7 seconds remaining for a 32-23 halftime advantage.
“Even after that, we knew they’d keep coming back and they had the ability to get a lead on us if we let up,” Eftink said, “We came out in the second half ready and just kept fighting.”
Helias scored eight of the first 11 points of the second half and cut the deficit to a single field goal twice in the final 90 seconds of the third quarter, pulling within 42-40 when Ava Morris drove the left baseline for a basket with one second remaining.
The Crusaders got within a point on two separate occasions in the fourth quarter, but they never took the lead. Helias trailed 46-45 with two minutes to play before Schreacke completed a three-point play. She also made two free throws with 6.9 seconds to play to preserve the victory.
Schreacke finished with 25 points and nine rebounds, while Eftink had 18 points. Helias junior forward Adalyn Koelling led the Crusaders with 12 points.
Everyone’s attention now turns to defending the crown as the Raiders open postseason play at 6 p.m. Monday in the semifinals of the Class 2A QND Regional against either Beardstown or West Hancock. Fourth-seeded Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin will face either Illini West or Rushville-Industry in the other semifinal.
“No more records,” Schreacke said. “The rankings don’t matter at this point.”
Playing a tough-as-nails schedule up to this point does.
“Getting yourself in shape in November, playing that rugged schedule in December and then elevating your play the second part of the year. That’s just like it should be,” Orne said.
The Raiders are playing as well right now as they have all season.
“We’ve been on a good streak for the last two weeks,” Orne said. “It’s still one game at a time. It’s still one practice at a time. It’s about having a good game plan. The last two weeks, there’s just been something about them and the way they’re playing.”
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