By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
MOUNT ZION, Ill. — Kassidy Gengenbacher's thoughts never strayed too far.
The Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team had some unplanned time to fill after the Class 3A Mount Zion Sectional championship game was pushed back from Thursday to Saturday due to a severe snowstorm.
And the Lady Raiders used it wisely.
"The majority of the time we were thinking about it," said Gengenbacher, a senior guard and part of three previous state tournament teams. "Right now, we're so hungry to win. Every single game, we come in and want to win so bad. The day off didn't effect us. It was another day to sit around in the gym and get ready for the game."
It had the Lady Raiders ready from the opening tip Saturday afternoon.
QND scored a layup on the game's initial possession, went on a 10-0 spurt to start the game and rolled to a 62-37 victory over Champaign Centennial at Mount Zion High School. It marked QND's fourth straight sectional championship and sixth title in the last nine years.
It also was the second-ranked Lady Raiders' second victory over the No. 3 Chargers as they won 47-43 on Dec. 21 in Champaign, Ill.
Knowing how close that contest was could have made QND players and coaches a little more antsy during the two-day layoff.
"I think they handled it better than I did," Lady Raiders coach Eric Orne said. "I was the one going stir crazy. It's hard on us coaches to have to stress about games for an extra few hours. The girls handled it well. That's their experience. … There are girls that have played big games in soccer, softball and volleyball, and that makes a big difference."
QND (27-0) will play Breese Mater Dei at 7:30 p.m. Monday in the super-sectional at the University of Illinois-Springfield. Mater Dei beat Massac County 46-35 Saturday to win the Waterloo Sectional.
The Chargers (30-4) looked out of sorts on offense. Chelsea Cross, who finished with 18 points, was the only Centennial player in double figures.
Centennial started slowly, going 2 for 8 from the field in the first quarter, which allowed QND to build a 17-4 first-quarter lead.
QND all-state forward Jordan Frericks, who finished with nine points and seven rebounds, struggled with foul trouble and had to sit midway through the second quarter after picking up her second foul.
Seizing an opportunity, the Chargers went on a 6-0 run to cut the lead to 23-14 with 2 minutes, 50 seconds left in the first half.
"We were a little flustered there," said Lady Raiders junior forward Mary Beth Hugenberg, who finished with 13 points. "The crowd was going crazy. We just had to calm down again. It had to be our game again."
Gengenbacher, who scored a game-high 19 points, stepped up to stop the run. She drilled a trey with 1:03 left in the half, pushing the Lady Raiders lead to 26-14. Gengenbacher made three 3-pointers in the game and now has 155 for her career, a new QND record. She passed 2008 graduate Renita Bunte, who held the previous record with 152.
Another basket from Gengenbacher, followed by a layup by Cassidy Foley at the halftime buzzer, pushed the Lady Raiders lead to 30-14.
Chargers coach Susan Thomas wasn't sure why her team suddenly lost the momentum.
"I thought our communication defensively during that spurt was outstanding," Thomas said. "I think we couldn't sustain it because we had some defensive breakdowns, and we weren't as aggressive offensively."
Right after halftime, Gengenbacher buried Centennial. She scored five points in the first two minutes, pushing the Lady Raiders' lead to 35-14. The Chargers never cut the deficit closer than 19 points.
"We always talk about the first three minutes of the half," Gengenbacher said. "If we come out the first three minutes with so much enthusiasm, excitement and energy, I don't think that they can stop us from there. I think we did that today, especially on the defensive end and that's what set us apart today."
Hugenberg felt the extra time to prepare helped the Lady Raiders.
"It was pretty sad that it was canceled because of the snow," Hugenberg said. "We had to stay focused, we had practice yesterday and went over the plays again. It gave us more time to think about it. We stayed focused."