By MATT SCHUCKMAN
Herald-Whig Sports Editor
Mary Beth Hugenberg had heard plenty about the atmosphere and aura of Blue Devil Gym.
She just hadn't experienced it.
"I've never played here," Hugenberg said. "I've never been to a guys game, either."
Saturday afternoon, she found out what the fuss was all about.
Hugenberg scored 14 points and grabbed six rebounds in leading the Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team to a 74-39 victory over Quincy High School at the venerable facility. A scheduling conflict forced the Blue Devils to move their home game from the high school gym to one of Illinois high school basketball's most respected gyms.
Not that anyone complained.
"It was pretty cool," Hugenberg said.
The Blue Devils appreciated the opportunity, too.
"I did have fun playing in here," QHS forward Hannah Reller said. "It was different with everything, but it was nice. It was a good crowd, and they were very enthusiastic."
They had every reason to be.
A year removed from a crosstown showdown in which the Blue Devils trailed 26-1 at the end of the first quarter, they gave the Lady Raiders, ranked second in Class 3A, a tussle for the first four minutes.
Angel Bradford scored twice off the dribble, driving the left side of the lane for a bucket 69 seconds into the game and converting a reverse layup to pull QHS within 8-5 with 4:30 remaining in the first quarter.
"A lot different story," QHS coach Demond Dade said. "They were the ones coming with the burden, and we were the ones with the opportunity. I thought we sensed that, and we played well at first."
QND's defense changed everything.
The Lady Raiders (13-0) closed the first quarter on a 13-2 run, turning five turnovers by the Blue Devils into eight points. In fact, QND's four field goals during the run were layins and highlighted what turned out to be a 19-point swing.
QND opened the second quarter by forcing turnovers on QHS's first six possessions and holding the Blue Devils (10-9) scoreless for the first 3:01. By the time Arai'ya Dade scored to end QHS's drought with 4:59 to go in the half, QND had extended its lead to 31-11.
All in all, it was a 21-2 run that spanned 7:06.
"It's such an adrenaline rush," Hugenberg said "It feels like it could go on forever. When you get to that point, you don't even get tired anymore. It's just a lot of fun."
At the same time, it's demoralizing.
"We started falling apart a little bit, and that's when heads start bobbing," Reller said.
The Lady Raiders contributed to that by getting to the basket with ease. Of QND's 13 first-half field goals, only three were shot further than 5 feet from the basket.
"Easy, uncontested shots," Demond Dade said. "We didn't make them work for a lot of their shots."
Even when the Lady Raiders had to work for it, they found success. QND shot 44.1 percent from the field, outrebounded QHS 44-32 and forced 24 turnovers.
That's a credit to their ability to adjust to playing a half-court game.
"That really is just determination," QND coach Eric Orne said. "It's something we try to work on every day in our half-court sets. They did that because Quincy has some really nice, quick guards that can get in there and cause you a lot of trouble, especially if they get penetration."
The problem for the Blue Devils is it didn't happen often enough. QHS shot just 27.1 percent from the field.
"Our girls are still learning to come together when adversity comes," Demond Dade said. "They're coming off the court looking for direction and guidance. That's a positive step for us."