Quincy Catholic eighth-grade team throws scare at defending champs before losing IESA title game

Quincy Catholic second place

Front row from left, Kyle Thompson, Brennan Venvertloh, Jake Pyatt, Kage Cook and Josh Brenner. Back row from left, Reece Schertel, Carson Reyburn, Tripp Flesch, Rowan Stegeman, Kaden Marth, T.J. Togarepi and Deacon Bliefnick. Missing from the photo is Austin Genenbacher. | Photo courtesy of Ben Marth

TOLONO, Ill. — When it fell behind 17-2 in the first quarter of Thursday night’s championship game in the Illinois Elementary School Association Class 8-3A state tournament, the Quincy Catholic eighth-grade boys basketball team could have easily folded.

After all, Metamora won the Class 7-3A state title last year and has gone 68-1 since the sixth grade. The Redbirds beat the Crusaders by 29 points in last year’s semifinals and had beaten their opponents by an average of 40 points per game this season. (Videos of Metamora’s eighth-grade team have drawn more than 2.6 million views on popular social media app TikTok.)

“It wasn’t great,” Crusaders coach Ron Kinscherf said of the early moments. “We kind of ran into a buzzsaw to start the contest.”

Quincy Catholic fought back this time.

The Crusaders got within four points at halftime and trailed by two points with less than four minutes to play before eventually losing 53-40 at Tolono Unity High School. The second-place finish is the best in program history.

Kinscherf said the third-place game played Thursday night might have inspired his team. Calumet City Schrum trailed East St. Louis Lincoln 25-1 but rallied to win 51-46.

“We knew (Metamora was) good, and we knew we were going to get punched, but we had to punch back,” Kinscherf said. “The guys still were very confident during that stretch and came back and punched back to get it a little bit under control.”

Quincy Catholic, playing without starting guard Austin Genenbacher, trailed 19-10 after one quarter and 28-24 at halftime. The Redbirds led 39-34 after three quarters, but the Crusaders got within 41-39 with 3:52 remaining.

“We got some stops and made some adjustments defensively,” Kinscherf said. “They had a little trouble scoring against us, and we were able to get some rebounds. Nothing more complicated than that.

“Defensively, our motto all year is if you can guard, you can play anywhere. Even if you have a bad shooting night, you can win 2-0. Our defense got us back in the game.”

The Crusaders never had the ball with a chance to take the lead. Metamora closed the game by outscoring Quincy Catholic 12-1.

Brady Jones had 21 points to lead the Redbirds, who finished 28-1. T.J. Togarepi had 16 points for the Crusaders, who finished 19-4. Rowan Stegeman scored 10 points and Kaden Marth added eight.

“They’re just really good,” Kinscherf said of Metamora. “A number of their fans came over and said we were by far the best team they have played all year. … We put the fear of God in them. We gave them everything they wanted.”

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