By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – The Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball team was determined to prevent a trend from starting.
Last season, Chicago Providence St. Mel became the first top-seeded team in State Farm Holiday Classic history to be toppled in the opening round by the No. 16 seed.
Wednesday afternoon, the top-seeded Raiders never gave 16th-seeded Macon Meridian any hope of doing that. QND, the defending champion of the small-school bracket, scored a season-high 31 points in the first quarter and rolled to a 70-29 win at Illinois Wesleyan University's Shirk Center in the Classic's first round.
The Raiders (11-1) will play Bloomington Central Catholic at 9 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals at Normal West High School. BCC advanced with a 38-34 win over Rock Island Alleman.
QND senior Alex Fitch scored 10 of his game-high 27 points in the first quarter. Fitch is now 28 points short of 1,000 in his career.
"We just came out and played our game. We saw the No. 1 seed go down in the first round last year," Fitch said. "That showed us something that can't happen. We have to come out and play our game or else we're going to be the next ones (eliminated) and the rest of the week won't be quite as meaningful."
QND led 61-23 heading into the fourth quarter.
Raiders guard Matt Doane hopes teams will start to challenge the Raiders as the tournament progresses.
"I'm looking forward, personally, to a good game," Doane said. "I want to play a team that is going to be as tough as we are. ... I like winning games by 30 points, but a close game is always better."
Balance on offense allowed the Raiders to cruise. QND's bench contributed 24 points, and all 10 Raiders who played scored. Nick Dietrich and Doane were the second-leading scorers with six points apiece.
The Raiders only turned the ball over seven times.
"It was pretty good, considering the pace we are trying to play at," QND coach Scott Douglas said. "We're playing at a pace that might suggest we're going to turn it over a little more than that. I thought we played at a good pace and that we played with confidence. We were sharp with the ball."
Seven first-quarter turnovers put Macon Meridian, which only played eight players due to injuries, behind early. QND used those mistakes to start the game on a 24-3 run, capped with a jumper by Doane with nearly two minutes left in the quarter.
Darren Davis stopped the run for Macon Meridian (4-5) by converting a three-point play. The Raiders led 31-8 after the first quarter and shot 63 percent (30 of 47) from the floor. Dylan Smith scored a game-high 17 points for the Hawks.
"I think most of them came from our defense," Douglas said about QND's first-quarter scoring. "We were able to force them into mistakes. We executed offensively and got to the basket, I thought we showed patience, but we were always attacking."