By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – The Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball team trailed by one possession in the middle of the fourth quarter and had four chances to tie the game.
Each time, the Raiders came up empty.
Three consecutive turnovers and an air ball kept the Raiders behind. Rockford Lutheran's offense took advantage, using a 12-1 run en route to a 57-51 win in the State Farm Holiday Classic small school championship game Saturday night at Illinois Wesleyan's Shirk Center.
Seconded-seeded Lutheran (10-2) won the Classic in its first appearance and prevented top-seeded QND (13-2) from defending its title.
Nick Dietrich scored on a layup to open the half for QND on a pass from Alex Fitch to cut the Crusaders lead to 29-26. From that point on, the Raiders offense stagnated. QND shot 3 of 13 in the third.
Fitch, who finished with a team-high 18 points, couldn't pinpoint what changed.
"That's tough to say," Fitch said. "I feel like we came out and we had a good start. Once we got that I figured it was going good. It shouldn't have, but I think the fatigue got to us. That's where we have to get mentality tougher so we can sustain a quick start to the third quarter."
QND coach Scott Douglas said the Raiders never recovered from their third-quarter mistakes.
"It looked like we were off to a good start to the third quarter," Douglas said. "Then we had mistake after mistake after mistake for a short period of time and it cost us the game."
While QND was struggling, Lutheran was attacking the rim against a fatigued Raiders defense. Five points from Tarence Roby and seven from Thomas Kopelman, who reached the 1,000-point plateau and finished with a game-high 19 points, allowed Lutheran to push the lead to 41-29.
"We really focus on our pressure defense and wanted to apply as much ball pressure as we could," Lutheran coach Tom Guse said. "If we rotated properly, we knew we could get some easy baskets and we did go on a nice run. High school basketball is a game run and if you can have one more run than they do you can come out on top."
QND didn't cut the lead to single digits until Nick Dietrich made a free throw with 22 seconds remaining in the game.
When the Raiders opened up with a layup from Matt McPherson, the Crusaders responded with a 9-0 run to take a 9-2 lead with 5:20 left in the first quarter.
Smart shot selection allowed QND to rally and take a 12-11 lead on a layup by Alex Fitch with 2:11 left in the first quarter. The two teams traded baskets to end the period and the Raiders had a 17-16 lead.
Fitch was selected to the all-tournament team for the third team. Sam Douglas finished with 10 points. Nate Wieting finished with a double-double (10 points and 11 rebounds) for the Crusaders.