Senior-laden Raiders' roster has renewed sense of urgency

Posted: Feb. 25, 2013 11:30 am Updated: Mar. 11, 2013 12:15 pm

Herald-Whig Sports Writer

The jovial nature of the Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball players is absent these days.

With the postseason upon them, the Raiders are all about buisness.

"You know if you lose, you're done," QND junior guard Tony Stella said. "Especially with those six seniors, seven if you count Noble (Peters), you don't want to be done until you're holding that state title trophy.

"The seniors have been on us in practice the last few weeks and we've had good practices. It's getting intense. Everyone is excited and getting nervous."

Senior forward Alex Fitch and the Raiders' other five active seniors -- Chris Dietrich, Nick Dietrich, Sam Douglas, Matt Doane and Matt McPherson -- have made sure everyone knows what it will take to win a second consecutive regional title. Noble Peters suffered a season-ending injury earlier in the season.

"When you come into practice, there isn't as much messing around or taking plays off," Fitch said. "When the rest of the seniors and myself start leading by example, the underclassmen and everybody get it's the most important time of the year. There's no more time to waste time in practice, not being sharp or whatever."

Finding a road to a title comes with high expectations.

QND (20-7) is the top seed at the Class 3A Galesburg Regional and will play the winner of fourth-seeded Genesco and fifth-seeded Rock Island Alleman at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Galesburg's Thiel Gym.

Winning will require the Raiders to be stubborn on offense, according to Stella. In five of the Raiders' seven losses this season, QND had a second-half lead. Wasted possessions down the stretch and missed free throws hurt QND at times.

The Raiders are shooting 62 percent (303 of 486) from the free-throw line this season.

"I think we need to be more stubborn on offense in the fourth quarter," Stella said. "When you have a three or four point lead, we need to take the best shot. You don't want to take a non-rhythm shot. In those games we lost we were taking open shots instead of rhythm shots."

QND averages 59.9 points per game on offense. Fitch leads the Raiders in scoring with 17.7 points per game, McPherson is second with 9.4 points per game. Being successful on offense in the postseason will require patience.

"We just need to be stubborn and get good shots and not be impatient no matter how long a possession last," Fitch said. "There's no shot clock, we have to make sure we get a good shot."

Bumping up to Class 3A also means facing schools with more size. For QND, 6-9 center McPherson will need to stay out of foul trouble. When McPherson is on the bench, Fitch is the Raiders next tallest player. Early in the season, picking up fouls was difficult to avoid for the first-year starter.

"Last year, I didn't have to worry about it as much," said McPherson about being in foul trouble. "At the beginning of the season, it was a struggle to find out what I can and can't do. As the season progressed, I became more of a smart defensive player and was able to maintain my aggression both offensively and defensively."

Douglas, who has been hampered by a leg injury, will be by Tuesday, meaning QND will have all of its starters on the floor.

The Raiders plan to be all about business.

"It's the best time of the year," McPherson said. "Every game is going to be tough, we can't take anyone lightly. We come prepared for every game and want to play to our full potential."


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