Raiders continue to zero in on letting defense dictate success, quiet Saukees’ offense

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Quincy Notre Dame guard Charlie Lavery positions himself defensively during the first half of Friday's game against Pittsfield at The Pit. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — The scoreboard lacked the zero the Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball players yearned to see.

A goose egg in the scorebook sufficed.

The Raiders held Pittsfield without a field goal in the first quarter Friday night at The Pit, allowing only a single Adam Musgrave free throw while building a 13-1 advantage. The Saukees ultimately went 9 minutes, 39 seconds without a field goal, a stretch finally broken when Musgrave scored at the rim with 6:21 remaining in the first half.

The 13-point deficit Pittsfield faced at that point was too much to overcome as QND won the second leg of a three-games-in-three-days stretch with a 52-30 victory.

“We played team defense all together,” QND senior guard Charlie Lavery said. “We talked all week in practice how they run the flex cut and we would need to be ready on the help side. We did a really, really good job on the help side. We played team defense and had everyone’s backs.”

It made scoring against the Raiders (10-5) an extraordinary challenge.

The Saukees turned the ball over on their first three possessions and five of their first six, a stretch interrupted only by Musgrave splitting a pair of free throws. Pittsfield endured seven consecutive empty possessions at one point and missed its first six shots.

“They pressured us and we kind of folded a little bit,” Pittsfield coach Brad Tomhave said. “We got on our heels, and we didn’t compete. It’s not that we didn’t play hard. We just weren’t competing at the toughness level QND was. They forced our hand into making mistakes.”

The pressure never ceased.

After Musgrave scored Pittsfield’s first field goal, QND needed just 23 seconds to answer as Lavery buried a 3-pointer from the right wing for a 19-3 advantage.

“Even when the first field goal went in, we were like, ‘OK, let’s go right back at them and get another one of ours,’” QND coach Kevin Meyer said. “We were right back into attack mode instead of settling in for whatever might happen.”

Reigniting the attack mode will be crucial to finishing the final leg of this stretch successfully.

Thursday night, the Raiders held Western scoreless for the game’s first seven minutes and posted a 71-33 victory. Saturday morning, they’ll square off against Highland (Ill.) in the second of eight games in the 31st Highland Shootout.

With only 12 hours between exiting The Pit on Friday night and playing the Bulldogs at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, the Raiders will look for every minute of rest they can get. It’s why they boarded a bus outside the school after beating the Saukees and hoped to be at their hotel before midnight.

“We can sleep a little bit on the bus and then get good rest in the hotel rooms,” Meyer said. “Get up early, get some breakfast and then go over to Highland and throw some haymakers.”

They threw some of those at the Saukees.

The Raiders scored on their first five possessions to go up 10-1 and capped a 13-point first quarter with Aiden Klauser’s three-point play. They proceeded to score on their first three possessions of the second quarter and led 27-10 at halftime.

Jake Hoyt led QND with 15 points, while Alex Connoyer and Klauser each had nine.

Meanwhile, Pittsfield’s offensive struggles carried over to the second half. The Saukees scored just five points in the third quarter and didn’t make a field goal until Musgrave drove to the basket with 35 seconds remaining. He finished with seven points.

Pittsfield shot just 23.8 percent from the field over the first three quarters.

“We got into some sets and got some good looks, but the ball didn’t go in,” Tomhave said. “And let’s be honest, in varsity basketball, you can’t come down and run a set every single time. You have to be able to play and you have to be able to play off the pattern of your offense and not be a robot. You have to be able to play. We’re just not there yet.”

QND’s defensive intensity exploited that.

“Our guys did a really good job of getting out there and disrupting their sets and then sitting and helping,” Meyer said. “There were a lot of little things that won’t show up in the scorebook, and those were a lot of good things defensively that we did tonight.”

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