Keeping the course: QND reaches state championship game - Quincy Herald-Whig | Illinois & Missouri News, Sports

Keeping the course: QND reaches state championship game

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Quenna Keating grabs a loose ball punched away from Morton's Kaitlyn Byrne by Kristen Gengenbacher. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley) Quenna Keating grabs a loose ball punched away from Morton's Kaitlyn Byrne by Kristen Gengenbacher. (H-W Photo/Michael Kipley)

By JOSH RIZZO
Herald-Whig Sports Writer

NORMAL, Ill. — Kassidy Gengenbacher paused to think about it, but truthfully, she wasn't overly concerned.

The Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team isn't going to have its much anticipated showdown with three-time defending Class 3A champion Lombard Montini.

While the Lady Raiders took care of business, beating Morton 67-51 in a Class 3A semifinals Friday afternoon at Illinois State University's Redbird Arena, Vernon Hills played spoiler.

The Chargers upset the No. 1-ranked Lady Broncos 48-45 in overtime, denying Lombard Montini the opportunity to become the first girls basketball program in Illinois High School Association history to win four straight championships.

"We were talking about it in the locker room," said Gengenbacher, who led QND with 15 points. "It would have been nice to play them, but we're playing in the state championship game and you can't complain about that."

The two-time defending Class 2A state champions, the Lady Raiders have won 52 consecutive games and are in position to become the fourth team to win three straight state titles and the first to do it in different classes.

QND (29-0) will play Vernon Hills (30-4) at 2 p.m. Saturday for the title.

"What a group of seniors we have," Lady Raiders coach Eric Orne said. "Four straight years, four straight championship games. I can't say enough for our team in general. I push them hard. To see them have the success makes me incredibly happy."

Not many opponents have been happy to try to throw passes around the reach of all-stater Jordan Frericks.

Frericks, who has a 6-foot-6 wingspan, never let the Lady Potters settle in during the first 2 1/2 minutes as the Lady Raiders opened with a 12-0 lead. Frericks had two steals, a rebound, a blocked shot and a scored on a layup during QND's run.

It quieted a large Morton crowd and gave the Lady Raiders separation. Morton would never cut the deficit to less than 11 points.

"Putting pressure on the guards was key tonight and not letting them get the ball inside," said Frericks, who finished with 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists and four steals. "We did a good job of putting pressure on them."

Pressure allowed QND to dominate the first quarter. Along with Frericks' hot start, the Lady Raiders dictated the tempo, building a 24-5 lead and scoring 13 points off turnovers.

Hot shooting also helped QND. The Lady Raiders shot 50 percent (25 of 50) from the field.

QND showed balance offensively, with Kristen Gengenbacher adding 13 points and Mary Beth Hugenberg chipping in 10.

"I think the energy and the enthusiasm that we come out with at the beginning of each game with our press sets the tempo for the rest of the game," Kassidy Gengenbacher said. "It really helps us to run the floor and get up the court like we always do."

Defensively, the Lady Raiders forced 18 turnovers, including a game-high seven steals for Cassidy Foley, and limited the Lady Potters all-state forward Sarah Livingston to six points in the first half. Chandler Ryan scored a game-high 18 points for Morton, while Kaitlyn Byrne added 15.

QND took its largest lead of the game at 35-8 after Frericks scored on a jumper with 3:01 left before halftime.

The Lady Raiders led 36-18 at halftime. Out of sync offensively, QND struggled to score at times in the second half. The Lady Potters outscored the Lady Raiders 33-31 in the second half and cut the lead as close as 15 points twice in the fourth quarter.

"We got stagnant," Orne said. "We were trying to run some clock and had some confusion at times. We had uncharacteristic turnovers. Those are some things we're going to talk about and review some tape."

QND has won its six playoff games by an average margin of 29.1 points per game.

"I think that tells a lot about our program and our team," Kassidy Gengenbacher said. "How we're always just hungry for a win, it doesn't matter what class or really sport we're in. We're always looking to win and what the next championship is we could bring home for our school."

— jrizzo@whig.com/221-3365

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