Raiders nearly post first-quarter shutout, start taxing weekend by overwhelming Wildcats

QND blue

BARRY, Ill. — As the minutes dwindled and the lead grew Thursday night, Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball coach Kevin Meyer could sense a growing challenge among his players.

The Raiders wanted to pitch a first-quarter shutout.

For nearly seven minutes, they did. QND raced to a 23-0 lead before Mason Smith ended Western’s scoring drought with a 3-pointer with 1:05 remaining in the first quarter. He made another trey 30 seconds later.

It wasn’t enough to ignite a full comeback as the Raiders won 71-33 in the West Central Conference matchup, but it ensured the Wildcats didn’t get shut out over the first eight minutes.

“We talked about trying to play single digits defensively in the quarters,” Meyer said. “So when Mason hit that first shot, it was kind of like we took it kind of personal. When he hit the second one, the guys were like, ‘OK, we really have to lock back in.’

“Nobody wanted to be the guy who got scored on in that scenario, but it was still team defense. That was the cool part of it. There was a lot of energy. There were a lot of guys flying around and it showed.”

The blistering start — QND led 27-6 at the end of the first quarter and 44-12 at halftime — was the perfect carryover after the Raiders went 3-1 and won fifth place at the State Farm Holiday Classic. QND (9-5) has won five of its last six games.

“You want to keep some momentum going,” Meyer said. “We had a good week of practice. That’s what made tonight fun and special as well. I didn’t feel we’d have a letdown because we had a good week of practice. They were engaged all the way through shootaround today.

“That’s the camaraderie that came out of State Farm. Everybody was gelling and everybody was getting after it. When teams start clicking and the energy is good and you see the things they are doing together off the court, then you have the chance to build something fun and special.”

Setting the right tone defensively helps.

The Raiders forced eight turnovers in the game’s first three minutes in bolting to a 9-0 lead. Meyer knew it sounded greedy to pick apart the fruitless offensive possessions in that opening stretch, but he also knew the Raiders didn’t allow any missed shots to bother them.

They simply kept attacking, scoring on seven consecutive possessions to build the 23-0 lead.

“Then it was like, ‘Ok, we’re going. We’re really going,’” Meyer said. “It was good to see their energy, really high energy. They wanted to start fast tonight. With three games in three days, you couldn’t ask for a better start to the weekend.”

The Raiders face Pittsfield at The Pit on Friday night before hitting the road immediately after the game, spending the night in a hotel and playing Highland (Ill.) at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the 31st Highland Shootout.

The strong start and lopsided outcome allowed the Raiders to play everybody in the first half and get 10 of the 12 players in the scoring column. Alex Connoyer led the Raiders with 14 points and Nolan Robb added 13 points. Smith and Blane Miller led the Wildcats with 10 points apiece.

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