Winchester West Central escapes ‘dogfight’ at the Pit, snaps four-game winning streak for QND boys


Winchester West Central's Mason Berry dribbles while Quincy Notre Dame's Connor Young defends during Saturday night's high school boys basketball game in the KHQA Superfan Shootout at the Pit. | Photo courtesy of Mary-Ann Ervin

QUINCY — As he lowered his MVP trophy to the ground and attempted to find one more ounce of energy before loading the bus back to Winchester, Zack Evans tried to put into words what the previous 90 minutes felt like.

“Anytime you come to QND, it’s going to be a dogfight,” Evans said. “That’s what it was tonight.”

Evans scored 25 points to help his Winchester West Central teammates dodge Quincy Notre Dame’s knockout attempts and prevail 59-54 in the final game of Saturday’s KHQA-American Family Insurance Superfan Shootout at The Pit. 

The Cougars, ranked fourth in the Class 1A Associated Press poll, won for the 24th time in 27 contests this season, while the Raiders’ four-game winning streak came to an end as their record fell to 13-9.

A physical contest throughout ended with a heated exchange between both sides. Each team’s coaching staff had to be separated following the post-game handshake.

“Just two teams battling,” QND head coach Kevin Meyer said. “There’s nothing there. I just wish we could have played four (overtime) minutes.”

Evans said they practiced what their head coach preached. 

“(West Central) coach (Ryan Sichting) always talks to us about weathering the storm, and that’s exactly what we did tonight,” Evans said.

The heavyweight tussle was nip-and-tuck throughout the first half as both the first and second quarters ended with tied scores, 15-15 after the first eight minutes and 29-29 at halftime. 

West Central took control in the third quarter. The Cougars led by as many as nine points and forced the Raiders to play catch-up from that point.

Meyer thought that stretch was pivotal in the eventual outcome.

“It was that dry spell where we didn’t get shots (to fall),” he said. “We were getting looks. They just weren’t falling.  It was a byproduct of us missing and them capitalizing and finishing, and that’s what a good team does. They finish it at the (offensive) end.”

The Raiders had a chance in the final two minutes to even the score. QND was down 54-51 when sophomore guard Beau Eftink hoisted a 3-point attempt that Meyer thought was going to drop.

“I thought it hit every part of the rim and just didn’t go down,” Meyer said.

It was a microcosm of QND’s failed opportunity at a perfect weekend.

“One shot short,” Meyer said.

Junior guard Alex Dance, who had a team-high 11 points, said the Raiders couldn’t buy a bucket when they needed it most.

“We went cold and missed a couple of shots,” Dance said. “We battled the whole game. We just couldn’t get back over that little hump.”

QND guard Jace Allensworth said it felt like a postseason environment.

“There was a lot of (trash) talking going on,” Allensworth said. “I think we stayed under control. We didn’t lose it. We didn’t let them get in our heads. I think we played good overall, but (West Central) is a pretty solid team.”

Allensworth had 10 points to join Dance as the only Raiders in double figures. Jackson Connoyer scored all seven of his points in the first half, while Aidan Klauser and Noah Lunt contributed six points apiece. Evans and Chance Little (18 points) netted 43 of West Central’s 59 points.

Meyer was far from satisfied with a loss but thought the Raiders gained plenty in the setback.

“It stings a little bit, but we didn’t give one away,” he said. “(West Central) earned it, and they walk out of here with the trophy for this particular game, but our guys battled their tails off. That was important.” 

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