By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
PEORIA, Ill. -- The Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball team's 11-point halftime lead had long faded Saturday, but the Raiders believed they could still beat Peoria Manual.
With 3 minutes, 10 seconds remaining, the game was still tied. Despite the Rams having all the momentum, they hadn't led since scoring the game's opening basket.
However, missed free throws and layups in the final minutes cost QND as it fell 64-59 to Manual, the No. 8-ranked team in Class 3A, at Manual High School.
For the Raiders, it seemed like a missed opportunity.
"We battled, but we did kind of let it get away," said Raiders junior guard Tony Stella, who finished with eight points. "We had some foul trouble and left shooters open. Those are things you can't do. We also had a few turnovers down the stretch."
When Manual (13-4) couldn't wrestle the lead away despite tying the game at 44, 46 and 48 in the fourth quarter, QND coach Scott Douglas thought his team might hold on.
"I thought ‘We got it,'" Douglas said. "We got fouled a couple times and missed a couple layups. ... The last five minutes we missed three layups and how many free throws? I don't know. You can't do much more than that. If you're getting fouled and going to the line, you can't do much more than that."
Justin Williams gave the Rams a 50-48 lead with a layup with 3:09 remaining. After Nick Dietrich went 1 of 2 from the free-throw line, Williams, who finished with 14 points, buried a 3-pointer with 2:22 remaining to put Manual up 53-49. QND (15-4) wouldn't get any closer than four points for the rest of the game and shot 4 of 8 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.
Strong work on the glass and 11-of-17 shooting allowed the Raiders to dominate the first half. Sam Douglas made a 3-pointer to push the Raiders' lead to game-high 14 points, 23-9, with 4:45 left in the second quarter.
Offensively, the Rams struggled from the field, shooting 5 of 17 in the first half.
"We feed off of our defense," Manual coach Derrick Booth said. "I didn't think in the first half our defensive intensity was where it should have been. Quincy Notre Dame did a good job of getting our attention, and we came out with better defensive intensity in the second half and because of that we got in a better rhythm offensively."
Alex Fitch, who finished with a game-high 22 points, picked up two early fouls in the first quarter and sat for much of the first half. The Raiders relied on strong first halves from Matt McPherson, Chris Dietrich and Stella to build its lead. Chris Dietrich finished with 12 points.
"We were playing good defense and not letting them get in the lane," Stella said. "We were keeping the ball on the perimeter, and they were shooting tough shots, and we were rebounding well. We didn't give them second opportunities."
After halftime, Manual was relentless on defense, forcing 11 turnovers. Delano Jones, who didn't score in the first half, scored 13 of his 17 points in the third quarter. Matt McPherson picked up his fourth foul early in the third quarter, causing the Raiders to switch from man defense to a 1-3-1 zone.
Nothing could stop the Rams' shooters in the third quarter, as they cut QND's lead to 43-41 by the end of the quarter.
"I think we might have caught them offguard at the beginning," Fitch said. "Not to say what we did in the first half was a fluke, but they came out (after halftime), and they knew there wasn't any time to mess around. They turned it up to a level that we didn't see from the first half. It kind of caught us on our heels."