By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — The Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team's run to a fourth consecutive state tournament berth wasn't supposed to be easy.
Bumping up to Class 3A was supposed to present more hurdles for the two-time defending Class 2A champion Lady Raiders.
Those hurdles proved to be a mirage.
Monday night, the second-ranked Lady Raiders beat Breese Mater Dei 56-30 in the Class 3A super-sectional at The Recreation and Athletic Center on the campus of the University of Illinois Springfield to advance to the final four for ninth time in program history.
QND (28-0) will face Morton at 2 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals at Redbird Arena on the Illinois State University campus in Normal, Ill.
"I don't know if it's a surprise," QND senior guard Kassidy Gengenbacher said. "I think all the hard work and effort we put in pays off. I'm so blessed to have the best teammates and I feel lucky to get to experience this four times."
This run has been nearly as dominant as last year's historic pace.
In its five playoff wins, QND (28-0) has a margin of victory of 35.6 points per game. During their title run last season, the Lady Raiders beat their opponents by an average of 46.7 points per game.
Junior guard Cassidy Foley said QND has extended its winning streak to 51 games by dictating the tempo.
"We've just been playing well," Foley said. "We've come out with the mentality of playing our game. That's really worked for us. Having that energy has worked well for us."
After watching QND open with an 8-0 run and build a 29-10 halftime lead, Lady Raiders coach Eric Orne admitted he didn't expect this kind of run.
"I'm definitely surprised, but at the same time I give our girls a lot of credit," Orne said. "They are the ones that come to practice every day and work extremely hard. Our practices aren't easy, and I think that pays off in the long run."
Playing against a Lady Knights squad that wanted to play slow, the Lady Raiders sped up the tempo. Forcing 10 turnovers in the first quarter allowed QND to go ahead 8-0 in the first three minutes. Mater Dei (25-7) got on the board when Emily Koelling, who finished with 10 points, scored on a layup with 5 minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Koelling's basket was the last time the Lady Knights trailed by less than eight points.
Jordan Frericks and Kassidy Gengenbacher, who finished with 26 and 18 points, respectively, scored all of the Lady Raiders' points in the first quarter as they built a 15-6 lead.
"We did a good job of dictating the tempo," Gengenbacher said. "Especially on offense, we got up and down the court and pushed the ball. We had them turn the ball over a lot and we valued the ball for the majority of the game."
Foley, who had two assists, hounded Lady Knights point guard Anna Lampe, who struggled to bring the ball up the floor.
"They're tough," Mater Dei coach Dave Kohnen said. "I just told the girls, we probably lost to the state champion.
There's no doubt in my mind. They have all the tools. We did some good things tonight, but we did a lot of things out of character, but they force you out of character."
In the second quarter, QND continued to assert its authority on defense. Mater Dei shot 5 of 18 from the field in the first half and finished 14 of 43.
"Defensively, we worked really hard and made sure they didn't get into the post and put pressure on the guards," Frericks said. "It worked and we had a lot of fun."