By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
The Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball team needed to be cautious.
Overaggressive play on defense hurt the Raiders during last Friday's loss at Breese Mater Dei -- their only loss of the season -- and they didn't want to get caught in that trap again.
Tuesday night, they figured out how to be cautiously aggressive. The Raiders forced 24 turnovers during their 72-39 win over Illini West at The Pit.
"We realize that was one of the problems at Breese (Mater Dei), so we committed ourselves this week to getting down defensively and getting back to fundamentals," QND senior forward Alex Fitch said. "We really kept the ball in front of us instead of gambling so much. We played more fundamentally sound instead of trying to make the big play every time."
The Chargers (2-3) hung around early. Brayden Carroll found Nolan Ard for a layup 18 seconds into the game to give Illini West a 2-0 lead. Three consecutive turnovers by the Chargers allowed QND to go ahead 5-2 on a 3-pointer by Chris Dietrich and layup by Matt McPherson. Brody Gronewold, who finished with a team-high 12 points, evened the game at five with a 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 33 seconds left in the first quarter.
Then the Raiders' defense ground Illini West's offense to a halt.
The Chargers didn't score again for four minutes.
"They came out and pressured us hard," Illini West coach John Hughs said. "We struggled with the physicality of the game. We're still a fairly young team, and they came out and got in us and pushed us out of our comfort zone, and we didn't respond well to it."
McPherson made a free throw to push QND's lead to 6-5 with 4:26 left in the first quarter. It was part of a 15-2 run that put the Raiders ahead for good. Levi Kirby scored for Illini West to stop the run with 1:24 left in the quarter, before QND scored the next seven points to push the lead to 21-7.
Nick Dietrich, who scored 13 points and made three 3-pointers, was pleased with how the Raiders started.
"Coach wanted us to come out and play with energy and play hard," Dietrich said. "We played smart and controlled the ball."
Staying focused was a big point of emphasis for QND coach Scott Douglas.
"I thought we were energized," Douglas said. "More importantly, I thought we played with good focus. We talk a lot about doing little things like a denial here or a stance here or a check here. We still made mistakes and have things to correct. I thought energy-wise we were better, but more importantly, focus-wise, we were concentrated and zeroed in much more than we were last Friday night at Breese."
QND never allowed Illini West to get within 10 points the rest of the game. The Raiders were ahead 35-19 at halftime and 52-28 at the end of the third quarter. Good ball movement allowed the Raiders to find holes in the Chargers' defense. QND shot 58 percent (29 of 50) from the field.
Fitch led the Raiders with 15 points and seven rebounds. Douglas said QND's offense flowed well.
"I thought the ball just moved," Douglas said. "I thought the ball was moving better. So when the ball moves better you have a tendency to create a better rhythm for yourself. When you have better rhythm, you tend to make more shots. ... We didn't have a ton of post-entry plays, but they didn't let us. I think they were determined to take that away from us. I thought we did a good job of getting the ball up the floor and then moving it once we got it up the floor and it made them scramble."