Raiders’ balance offensively puts Chiefs’ defense in bind in super-sectional matchup
QUINCY — A year ago, Tristan Pieper had to watch somewhat from afar as the Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team won the Class 2A state championship.
“The very top of the student section,” Pieper said of her seat in Redbird Arena.
The view will be quite different this year.
“Of course, it will,” Pieper said. “Most definitely.”
A freshman forward who played a pivotal role in helping balance the Raiders’ attack during Monday’s 51-23 victory over Deer Creek-Mackinaw in the Class 2A Macomb Super-Sectional at The Hangar, Pieper will be one of the first players off the bench when QND faces Breese Mater Dei in Thursday’s state semifinals at Illinois State University’s Redbird Arena.
“It’s amazing,” she said. “Going there last year, I had to watch. Now I get to play. It’s exciting.”
Although the Raiders feature the program’s all-time leading scorer in senior guard Abbey Schreacke and the all-time leading 3-point shooter in senior guard Blair Eftink, it’s the contributions of the underclassmen that have taken pressure off the veterans and made this offense more dynamic.
It showed from the start.
Schreacke, who has scored more than 2,400 career points and finished with a game-high 20 points Monday night, had only four points in the game’s first 11 ½ minutes. Eftink, who scored 11 points in the first half and 17 overall, and sophomore guard Sage Stratton shouldered the load in helping QND forge a 16-14 lead.
“They were taking it to the rim, drawing fouls,” Schreacke said. “They were great.”
Then came one of QND’s signature offensive bursts as it closed the first half on a 15-0 run with four different players scoring in the stretch. Pieper kickstarted the run, scoring at the rim with 4:50 remaining in the half.
“We know we have to have all five players on the court being scorers,” Pieper said. “It can’t be just one or two of us. All five of us have to contribute no matter which five are out there. It needs to be all of us all the time.”
The Raiders led 39-19 heading to the fourth quarter and finished off the Chiefs with an 8-2 run that featured Pieper scoring twice off assists from Schreacke and returning the favor by setting up Schreacke for a layin.
“Abbey will find a way to make her own shots,” Pieper said. “And she knows when she’s not open, she’ll find anyone she can. … A senior trusts a freshman, that means a lot.”
With three freshmen part of the rotation and being asked to contribute, building that trust has been crucial. It’s one of the reasons the Raiders have won 27 straight games, set a single-season program record for victories with 34 and are two wins away from back-to-back state championships.
“We knew our purpose this year was to find balance,” QND coach Eric Orne said. “It couldn’t be Abbey Schreacke scoring 28 points per game. We weren’t going to be that successful doing that. We started moving the ball. We started putting in some good stuff offensively.
“Players have stepped up throughout the year. That’s why we’re going back. That is the main reason. We understood we had to have balance and we had to be a good team, not just one player.”
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