Raiders enjoy sweet rewards after capping State Farm Holiday Classic with back-to-back wins

December 29, 2022 - Bloomington, Illinois - Notre Dame's Noah Lunt leaps for joy after his team takes the lead against El Paso-Gridley in the fourth quarter on Thursday at the State Farm Holiday Classic. The Raiders pulled off a come-from-behind 49-46 win at the Shirk Center over the Titans. (Photo: PhotoNews Media/Clark Brooks)

Quincy Notre Dame's Noah Lunt reacts to Alex Connoyer scoring the go-ahead basket against El Paso-Gridley with 6.7 seconds remaining in regulation Thursday afternoon in the State Farm Holiday Classic in Bloomington, Ill. | Photo courtesy Clark Brooks, PhotoNews Media

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Christina Meyer made a promise the Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball players intended her to keep.

So after beating Kankakee Bishop McNamara 53-46 in Thursday night’s fifth-place game of the State Farm Holiday Classic, the Raiders reminded Meyer’s husband — QND coach Kevin Meyer — she said she’d buy the team milkshakes after their final game.

“When Coach Meyer called her and asked if she had promised us milkshakes, she said, ‘I sure did. Where am I meeting you?’” QND senior forward Alex Connoyer said.

They met at Oberweis Ice Cream and Dairy Store.

“The milkshakes were pretty good,” said Connoyer, who indulged in a fudge brownie milkshake.

Winning twice Thursday and finishing the tournament 3-1 made them taste even sweeter.

So did finding a way to win Thursday’s first game.

“We kept saying, ‘We’ve got this, we’ve got this,’” Connoyer said. “We kept crawling into them defensively and were getting the shots we wanted offensively.”

The Raiders chiseled away at an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter against El Paso-Gridley, eventually tying the game at 46. A defensive stop gave the Raiders possession with 51 seconds remaining in regulation, and they worked the ball around the perimeter before calling a timeout with 14.7 seconds left.

After catching the inbounds pass in the backcourt, QND point guard Jake Hoyt split two defenders and delivered an on-the-money bounce pass to Connoyer on the left block. Connoyer made the layin, drew a foul and completed the three-point play with 6.7 seconds left.

Hoyt stole the ensuing Titans’ inbounds pass and ran out the clock on a 49-46 victory.

“Such a back and forth, back and forth game,” Meyer said. “But we drew up the play in the timeout and executed it perfectly.”

It was a reminder for Connoyer and others to stay focused no matter the situation. He spent most of the first half on the bench in foul trouble and scored just two points before the final sequence, but he was engaged at the right moment to finish the victory.

“I wasn’t the happiest camper on the bench that first half, but everyone was telling me to keep my head and it’ll come back to you,” Connoyer said. “All the coaches at the end were reminding me it will always come back around.”

Hoyt led the Raiders with 15 points against El Paso-Gridley, while Charlie Lavery added 12.

Against Bishop McNamara, the Raiders took the lead by scoring 18 points in the second quarter and finished off the victory by outgunning the Fightin’ Irish 17-9 in the fourth quarter.

“It was fun to watch,” said Connoyer, who led the Raiders with 13 points. “We were really polished. It was the first time I’ve seen on the court where we were like poetry in motion. We were moving the ball and got whatever shot we wanted.”

Defensively, the Raiders stayed engaged despite tired legs. Bishop McNamara’s Jaxson Provost scored 21 points, but Meyer said none of his points came easy.

“We made him work,” Meyer said.

By working hard themselves, the Raiders were able to bounce back from Wednesday’s quarterfinal loss.

“(Meyer’s) message is always how high can you bounce back up,” Connoyer said. “We bounced pretty high.”

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