By RICHARD MARKEY
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
The Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball team didn't get off to the quick start Saturday night it had become accustomed to during their first four games of the Gully Transportation/Suns Classic Tip-Off Tournament against West Hancock.
The Raiders just needed the first half to warm up.
QND forced West Hancock into eight third-quarter turnovers, going on a 16-2 run to start the second half and rolling to a 59-20 victory in the championship game at The Pit.
"That third quarter was big because they were still hanging around with us," said QND forward Alex Fitch, referencing the Raiders' 30-14 halftime lead. "With their defense and the way they played, it really slowed us down and we couldn't create separation. In the third quarter, we got out to running in transition a little bit, and we shored up some things at half on defense. That stopped their penetration, and in turn, stopped their field goals."
West Hancock (4-1) shot 1 for 6 during the third quarter, while QND (5-0) connected on 7 of 11 shots.
"Even in the beginning of the quarter, we had some easy ones that we missed," said QND coach Scott Douglas, whose team missed its first two field goals of the half. "We could have jumped out earlier even stronger, but we were a little sluggish putting the ball in the basket. I think that's the way we were in the first quarter. I think we were just a little bit too excited.
"We needed to slow down just a smidgen, and when we did that, we were a little more effective."
The Titans shot 7 of 26 from the field overall and committed 26 turnovers, while playing without leading scorer Paxton Harmon.
The 6-foot-5 senior guard injured his ankle Wednesday night against Southeastern and sat out the final two tournament games.
"He's our primary facilitator for our offense," West Hancock coach Reno Pinkston said. "But if he's out of a game, we've got to make sure we're still playing our brand of basketball. ... They've got a heck of a team and we knew that coming in. We knew, with Paxton not here, we couldn't afford to make silly turnovers, and we made some really silly turnovers that were just surprising."
Harmon also may have helped on the interior, where Fitch carved up the Titans for a game-high 25 points around the basket.
"(Fitch) always brings a big presence around the basket," said QND guard Chris Dietrich, who finished with seven points and seven assists. "He can finish over anybody. I just try to get them the ball in scoring opportunities and they usually do a good job."
An Austin Ridder layup with 2 minutes, 38 seconds remaining saw the Raiders' lead swell to its largest at 59-17. QND allowed just one field goal in the fourth quarter.
"You've got to play a certain way, and we just didn't play varsity basketball tonight," Pinkston said.
It gave the Raiders their fifth tournament title in the last six years and 16th overall.
Matt McPherson chipped in seven for the Raiders. Austin Hardy and Parker Gibbs lead West Hancock with six points each.
Although rarely tested this week, Douglas came away pleased with his team's effort.
"We're feeling pretty good. We feel pretty confident in our guys," Douglas said. "I think we have the potential to be really good. I think we can get a lot better than we already are, which is good.
"Hopefully, we'll take on that approach to continue to improve and continue to get better. We'll see where that puts us at the end of the season."