Surging at right time gives Raiders momentum with plenty of practice on horizon

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Quincy Notre Dame senior guard Charlie Lavery applies defensive pressure during Tuesday night's game against Illini West at The Pit. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — The stage at which the Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball team found itself — both in Tuesday night’s game and its season — screamed of a need for momentum.

Charlie Lavery provided it.

With QND leading Illini West 24-23 with 2 minutes, 10 seconds remaining in the first half at The Pit, the senior guard buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key off a kickout from Josh Bocke. It sparked a 9-0 run in which Lavery scored seven points, catapulting the Raiders to a 58-44 victory.

“We came into a timeout and (QND coach Kevin Meyer) said we need to crawl in right here,” said Lavery, who finished with 12 points. “We had not played our best yet at that moment. But everything started on the defensive end. Jake Hoyt made a play and got us going.

“Getting rebounds, getting out in transition, doing all the little things, we had to have everyone contributing to make that happen.”

It gave the locker room a more vibrant feel.

“We went in with high spirits and saying, ‘We’ve got this,’” Bocke said. “We just had to do it.”

In doing so, the Raiders generated some much-needed positive vibes.

QND had lost back-to-back games to Bloomington Central Catholic and Columbia (Mo.) Father Tolton, and a third consecutive loss heading into a 10-day stretch between games would have made practices more grueling. Instead, the Raiders can embrace the break.

“It’s a good physical reset and a mental reset,” Bocke said. “We can get ourselves in the right direction and work on what we need to work for a deep playoff run. That’s it.”

They’ll come back February 3 against Payson Seymour in the KHQA SuperFan Shootout a different team, too.

The Raiders (13-8) expect to add 6-foot-8 senior forward Jake Wallingford and 6-foot-4 senior swingman Braden Sheffield to the rotation by then. Wallingford is returning after undergoing hip surgery in the fall, while Sheffield chose not to play the first semester and is working his way back onto the roster.

“We got through January while facing some pretty good tests,” Meyer said. “Now we’re going into February with our full squad. We’re going into February — knock on wood — with our guys healthy. We finally have the group we thought we were going to have in June.

“I’m excited to see this group perform together.”

What won’t change is the desire to be tenacious defensively.

That altered Tuesday’s game as much as Lavery’s scoring burst.

Illini West opened the game by hitting its first four shots and going on an 11-4 run. QND answered with a seven-point run, tied the game at 16 at the end of the first quarter and took the lead for good on Jake Hoyt’s layin with four minutes to play in the first half.

Although the Raiders’ advantage grew to as large as 10 points, the Chargers capitalized on a couple opportunities early in the third quarter to get within 35-31. However, QND closed the quarter on an 8-0 run and never was threatened again.

“We’ll talk about how they’ll throw big punches, but we’ll keep throwing little jabs,” said Bocke, who led the Raiders with 16 points. “Eventually, those jabs will all add up.”

Senior guard Nolan Deitrich led the Chargers with 16 points, and much like QND, Illini West (13-11) has a break in its schedule to revamp before making the postseason push. The Chargers play only once in the next two weeks before hitting the February grind.

“What I kept reminding them is we’ve had a brutal last couple of weeks,” said Illini West coach Justin Ellison, whose team played Southeastern twice, Macomb and West Hancock in that stretch. “It was never going to be easy sledding through that two weeks, but now we have some time to get in the gym and work on our stuff.

“It’s kind of like hitting a reset button. It’s going to feel like the beginning of the year when we’re practicing every day. I’m looking forward to working on some things and cleaning some stuff up. Then, we’ll hit the gas pedal in February and get ready for the postseason.”

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