By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- The Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball team has proven it can go toe-to-toe with some of Class 3A's heavyweights.
The Raiders still haven't proved they can beat them.
That's what happened down the stretch Tuesday night. QND was unable to come up with a defensive rebound, turned the ball over when it had a chance to regain the lead and missed a couple of shots that could have changed the 58-55 loss to Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin at Jim Belz Gym.
"At this point of the season, we have to be making those plays. They are the ones that win games," said QND senior Matt McPherson, who finished with seven points, four rebounds and three assists. "It's going to be possession-by-possession games from here on out. We're going to have to make clutch plays to seal those victories."
That requires being tenacious and tough.
QND led 55-54 when SHG's Nate Lowis clanged a free throw off the front of rim. The ball fell in the center of the lane, and the Cyclones' David Jacob beat the Raiders (17-6) to the punch by grabbing the loose ball. He was fouled by the Raiders' Nick Dietrich and promptly made two free throws with 26 seconds remaining to give SHG the lead.
On the next possession, QND forward Alex Fitch slipped while attacking the rim and turned the ball over. SHG added two more free throws and survived two last-second 3-point attempts by Fitch.
Although the Cyclones (18-5) only outrebounded the Raiders 33-30, giving up offensive rebounds late in the game proved painful.
"Part of it was athleticism on their part," QND coach Scott Douglas said. "They were physically strong and quick and had good athletes. That said, we also missed a lot of checkouts. We missed some checkouts that were concentration checkouts. You can't make those mistakes."
To start the game, the Raiders jumped on the Cyclones by going off the scouting report. QND buried five 3-pointers and led 19-9 after the first quarter and pushed the lead to 31-19 with 2:20 remaining before halftime.
Fitch had a game-high 18 points and eight rebounds. Nick Dietrich also had 10 points.
"On the scouting report, they were a drive team first," SHG coach Blake Lucas said. "We respect their shooters because they are a good team. They came out on fire in a different environment, and you have to give them credit for that. We had to stick to the gameplan."
After Chris Dietrich scored on a pass from McPherson to put the Raiders up 12, the Cyclones closed the first half with a flurry. SHG scored the final nine points, including a tip-in by Malik Thomas, who finished with 13 points and seven rebounds, to cut the deficit to 31-28 at halftime.
It was a tough way for the Raiders to close the half.
"We made some defensive mistakes, allowed offensive rebounds and had offensive dysfunction," Douglas said. "It was frustrating because we had so many minutes where we looked good offensively. We would have those moments intermingled to let them gain some confidence and go into the second half feeling better than they should have."
The Cyclones surged ahead 39-35 in the third quarter before the Raiders rallied. The game was tied at 42 at the end of the third quarter, and the Raiders went ahead 48-42 on a layup by McPherson with 6:40 remaining. A 3-pointer by SHG's Travis Vogel cut the deficit to three points and the teams traded baskets until SHG went ahead for good on Jacob's free throws.