Eftink’s steal and score provides fourth-quarter spark as QND girls advance to sectional


Quincy Notre Dame's Blair Eftink goes up for a left-handed layup over Sacred Heart-Griffin's Reese Watson during the championship game of the Class 2A girls basketball sectional on Thursday night in the Pit. Eftink stripped the ball from the Cyclones' Hannah Lambert and went in for the basket that gave QND a six-point lead with six minutes left in the game. | David Adam

QUINCY — The Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team was in unexpected trouble.

The No. 1-ranked team in Class 2A led comfortably 47-31 with about five minutes left in the third quarter of Thursday night’s regional championship game at The Pit. However, Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin went on a 14-2 run, culminated by Caroline Lambert’s backdoor layup, to get within 49-45 with 6:48 remaining in the game.

After a turnover by the Raiders’ Ari Buehler, the Cyclones had a chance to cut even deeper into the lead on the next possession.

Blair Eftink wasn’t about to let that happen.

The senior guard poked the ball away from SHG’s Hannah Lambert at midcourt, picked up the loose ball and went in for a left-handed layup. That bucket started a six-point run that pushed QND’s lead back to double digits. The Raiders went on to post a 54-43 victory to claim their 30th regional championship in school history.

QND (31-1) advances to Tuesday’s 6 p.m. semifinal in the Class 2A sectional at Pleasant Plains. It will play the winner of the Pittsfield Sectional — either Hillsboro or Pittsfield, who meet Friday night.

“I definitely cherished it tonight. I knew coming in we were going to get pretty emotional about it, but I just had to hold it until after the game.”

Click here to read David Adam’s column about the emotion of Abbey Schreacke’s and Blair Eftink’s final game at The Pit on Thursday.

Eftink’s steal sparked a defensive surge in the Raiders. The Cyclones turned the ball over again on their next three possessions, then missed six of their next seven shots. They scored one basket in more than 5½ minutes.

“Coach (Eric) Orne was saying to pick up the (defensive) pressure, so I just kind of got up on (Hannah Lambert) and tried to do that,” Eftink said. “Then I got a touch on it, and I was like, I need to finish it now. I think it was a good momentum swinger. I just had that energy going with me.”

It was the type of play Orne expects from the senior guard.

“That was a senior captain stepping up and making a play when we were kind of lost,” Orne said. “I’ll be honest. We were needing something good to happen, and she came up and made a good defensive play. Then not only did she make it, but she actually made a heck of a move to score those two points. 

“That’s what you got when you’ve got a kid like Blair. If you don’t get that, sometimes you fall back on your heels. That gave us a little momentum to kind of re-establish ourselves and stand back up straight.”

“We definitely needed that,” teammate Abbey Schreacke said. “We were all kind of lost on defense at that point. That was a game changer for us. That just settled us down and really gave us a chance to collect ourselves.”

Eftink forced another turnover on SHG’s next possession, and Schreacke drove the middle of the lane for a layup to put the hosts ahead by eight points. Another SHG turnover led to a basket by Eftink as she drove the left side of the lane.

The Cyclones never got closer than eight points thereafter. The Raiders made five of six free throws in the final minute to seal the victory.

“They’re obviously not the No. 1 team in the state for no reason,” Sacred Heart-Griffin coach Steve Klunick said. “They took what we gave and bounced back. We had two key turnovers there when we got it down to four, but I’m proud of the girls. I don’t know if there’s another team in the state that would have given them this game tonight.”

Schreacke led the Raiders with 19 points, while Eftink added 17 and Sage Stratton chipped in with 11. Callie Huston scored 15 points SHG (26-7), which was ranked ninth in the final Class 2A state poll. Hannah Lambert, who had two 3-pointers in that 16-2 run in the second half, finished with 11 points.

Klunick isn’t sure if anybody left in the Class 2A field has what it takes to dethrone the defending champions.

“We didn’t hit our outside shot as much as that next team’s got to hit it,” he said. “Notre Dame plays great defense, and their height got us a little bit when Abbey decided she’s going to post up. She creates a nightmare for everybody. 

“So you know, that next team … I don’t know if there’s a next team that has that Division I athlete on their team. Boy, it would be nice to have one in play.”

Class 2A Sectional Pairings

Tuesday’s Semifinals

At Chicago DePaul College Prep
DePaul College Prep vs. Chicago Latin-Chicago Christ the King winner
Chicago Clark vs. Wilmette Regina Dominican

At Winnebago
Byron-Winnebago winner vs. Aurora Central Catholic-Marengo winner
Woodstock Marian vs. Stillman Valley-Rock Island Alleman winner

At Coal City
Minonk Fieldcrest vs. Kankakee Bishop McNamara
St. Joseph-Ogden vs. Peotone-Prairie Central winner

At Elmhurst
Chicago Noble/Butler vs. Elmhurst Timothy Christian-Elmhurst IC Catholic winner
Chicago Phillips-Chicago Dyett winner vs. Chicago Julian-Chicago Perspectives/Leadership winner

At Pleasant Plains
Quincy Notre Dame vs. Hillsboro-Pittsfield winner
Staunton vs. Central-Southeastern

At Taylor Ridge
Deer Creek-Mackinaw vs. Princeton-Monmouth-Roseville winner
Sherrard-Mercer County winner vs. Canton-Eureka winner

At DuQuoin
Breese Mater Dei vs. Massac County-Carterville winner
Benton vs. Breese Central

At Pana
Teutopolis vs. Pana
Paris vs. Robinson

EDITOR’S NOTE: The score of the game with 6:48 remaiming in the fourth quarter was incorrect in a previous version of this story.

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