By RICHARD MARKEY
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
The Quincy Notre Dame basketball team made the most of what it was given.
In the third quarter Saturday night at The Pit, the Raiders pounded the ball inside against Liberty's man-to-man defense. In the fourth quarter, they salted away a 50-40 victory by knocking down jumpers against the Eagles' zone defense.
Holding a 20-14 lead to start the second half, QND senior center Matt McPherson went to work on the interior. Starting with a jump hook in the middle of the lane just 1 minute, 29 seconds into the half, McPherson scored the first 10 points of the quarter.
"It just shows what he's capable of doing," Raiders senior forward Alex Fitch said. "With his size and the little bit of athleticism he has, he just has to have the confidence to go up there and finish and just be strong."
McPherson was strong. He finished with 12 points, 11 rebounds and two blocks.
"We tell our guys to just contest shots and make them shoot over the top," Liberty coach Andy Douglas said. "The problem with (McPherson) is that he has a 10-foot reach, so he can shoot over the top pretty easy."
Liberty (16-9) closed the gap to 34-28 just 17 seconds into the fourth quarter on a Michael Blewett 3-pointer from the left wing. But a pair of layups, one of which ended in a three-point play by QND guard Riley Walz, forced the Eagles into a zone defense to shore up the middle with a little less than six minutes remaining.
The Raiders then shifted their attack to the perimeter with long, calculated possessions.
They capped their first possession against the zone with a Drew Eaton 3-pointer from the right corner after 1:26 had elapsed. Eaton ended a 57-second QND possession with a three from the left arc.
"Those were huge possessions," QND coach Scott Douglas said. "They're huge possessions just to take some clock. But when you polish it off with a three, that's just icing on the cake in a big way."
Eaton finished with 11 points, including three 3-pointers.
"Drew's a clutch player, and I've said that before," McPherson said. "He pulls through when we need him. He's a heck of a 3-point shooter, and I thought our guys did a good job of getting him open while staggering our offense to really make time our friend."
Andy Douglas thought the zone was the Eagles' best option late in the game.
"That was part of our gameplan, and that's who we are," he said. "We threw a little zone at them in the first half, not much. In the second half, we thought we did pretty well at it, but we just weren't aggressive enough on the ball and they were able to get a couple leak outs. You can't leave a shooter of (Eaton's) caliber open. He'll knock them down all night."
The Eagles held a 12-9 lead, their largest of the night, early in the second quarter before QND closed the half on an 11-2 run.
Blewett led Liberty with 13 points, followed by Isaac Murfin with 10. Fitch chipped in 10 points for the Raiders.
"It's just knocking one down and on to the next one," Fitch said. "We've only got three games left and one home game. I just want to finish out the year strong because, a lot of times, the postseason is just who comes in hot."