‘I feel heartbreak for the kids’: Bid for sectional title falls one point short for Notre Dame girls


Quincy Notre Dame's Jenna Durst tries to dribble past Chatham Glenwood's Rowann Law during the second half of Thursday night's Class 3A girls basketball sectional championship at MacArthur High School in Decatur, Ill. | David Adam photo

DECATUR, Ill. — The Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team couldn’t have asked for a better player to step to the free-throw line.

Sophomore Ari Buehler, who had scored eight points in the fourth quarter and expertly handled Chatham Glenwood’s unrelenting defensive pressure to keep the Raiders close, was fouled near mid-court with eight-tenths of a second remaining in Thursday night’s Class 3A sectional championship game at MacArthur High School. 

She went to the free-throw line needing to make two free throws to tie the score and force overtime.

Buehler, a 77-percent free throw shooter, calmly swished the first. However, the second free throw hit the back of the rim and caromed out. Teammate Jenna Durst grabbed the rebound but couldn’t get a shot off before time expired, and Quincy Notre Dame’s bid for a sectional title fell short in a 44-43 loss.

“We had a great opportunity,” Raiders coach Eric Orne said. “Honestly, the biggest word right now is just I feel heartbreak for the kids, along with this incredible amount of pride.”

The Titans (26-7) advance to the Highland Super-Sectional on Monday and will play Highland (26-10), which defeated Effingham 34-31 in the sectional at Effingham. Chatham Glenwood has never won a super-sectional.

Notre Dame ends its season with a 28-5 record, falling just shy of winning its 19th sectional title in school history.

The Raiders had a chance to play for the final shot, taking a timeout with 23 seconds remaining after a Titans turnover. After dribbling the ball across half-court, Durst was double-teamed by the Titans’ Alexis Neumann and Rowann Law. An official ruled Law tied up Durst with 10.6 seconds left, and Chatham Glenwood got the ball on the alternating possession.

Orne didn’t believe the jump ball call was warranted.

“Not in a moment like that,” he said. “The kids are playing hard. Let them play it out.”

On the ensuing possession, the Titans’ Makenna Yeager drove along the baseline and was fouled by QND’s Tristan Pieper with three seconds left. She made two free throws to put her team ahead by two. 

“A lot of whistles late in this game,” Orne said through a forced smile. “That’s unfortunate.”

Durst’s inbounds pass went to Buehler, who dribbled toward the Glenwood bench. The Titans’ Hope Gilmore tried to block Buehler’s path, and a blocking foul was called.

“I got open and was just trying to get downhill from there to see if we can get anything open,” Buehler said. “I was just trying to get anything at that point.”

“At that point, if (Buehler) makes (the free throws), it’s overtime. It’s not a loss,” Titans coach Alyssa Riley said. “My mind was racing. What are we changing in overtime? What adjustments do we make? What lineup do I go with?

“(After the free throw miss) I thought the ref had called a foul on us, and then he ran off the floor. I was like, ‘Whew. Game’s over.’”

A teary-eyed Buehler clapped for the Titans as they were presented the sectional plaque. She handled the postgame interviews and consolation hugs just as graciously.

“It’s definitely a learning experience,” she said. “You have to go up there every time knowing you’re going to make (free throws). You have to go up there with confidence. You can’t go up there with a negative mindset.”

Inspired play from Durst in the third quarter and Buehler in the fourth quarter helped the Raiders overcome a lackluster first half. Chatham Glenwood’s physical defensive pressure on the ball forced the Raiders to miss 14 of 19 shots and turn the ball over 11 times in the first half. 

Chatham Glenwood led by as many as 10 points, but QND rallied to trail only 19-15 at halftime.

Durst took advantage of the defensive pressure by the Titans by continuously driving to the basket and scoring. She made four layups and found Buehler for a backdoor layup in the quarter. Sage Stratton made two free throws with 2.8 seconds left to give the Raiders a 29-27 lead entering the fourth quarter.

“She saw the mismatch, and like (assistant coach Bob) Sheffield told her, you get it, you take it,” Orne said. “And she did. She made big plays for us.”

Buehler made them in the fourth quarter.

Her two free throws with six minutes remaining tied the score at 31 with six minutes remaining. She made driving shots twice in the quarter to break ties and put the Raiders ahead, and her floater with 1:48 remaining gave them a 40-36 lead.

“We didn’t utilize the strength of our guards in the first half,” Orne said. “We got some back cuts on their overpressure and got downhill (in the second half). We wouldn’t be here without what Ari Buehler did there in the third and fourth quarters.”

The Titans only needed 28 seconds to tie the score on a 12-footer by Gilmore and a steal and layup by Yeager. Durst and Gilmore traded baskets to set up the final moments.

Buehler led the Raiders with 14 points. Durst scored 12 and Stratton added 10.

A bitter loss like Thursday’s isn’t easy to accept, even for Orne, whose teams have won 549 games and four state titles in 22 seasons.

“Every basketball season’s a great journey,” an emotional Orne said. “I’m blessed that I’ve always coached at QND and our culture and how our kids play incredibly hard. It’s something I still admire. 

“We had to climb some hills this year and fight through some things, but we grew as a team. It’s emotional at times like this, but we’re walking out of here winners in my heart, for sure.”

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