By BLAKE TOPPMEYER
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
NORMAL, Ill. -- If it would have ended any other way, it wouldn't have felt right.
Not for seniors Jordan Frericks and Kassidy Gengenbacher, and not for fans of the Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball program.
With Frericks and Gengenbacher at center stage though, there was really no other way it could have ended. Anyone who has watched this program for the last several years just sort of knew that this era of QND dominance would end with a championship.
And so, Frericks and Gengenbacher and their Lady Raider teammates played on Saturday the way they seemingly always do – like champions.
The Lady Raiders led from wire to wire, beating Vernon Hills 62-45 at Illinois State's Redbird Arena to secure a Class 3A state championship.
It completed QND's 30-0 season -- its second undefeated season in program history -- and gave the school its fifth girls basketball championship. It made the Lady Raiders, who won 2A titles in 2011 and 2012, the first team in IHSA history to win back-to-back championships in separate classes. By completing the three-peat, QND became the fourth team in IHSA history to win three straight state titles, joining Teutopolis (1988-90), Bolingbrook (2009-11) and Lombard Montini (2010-12). No team has won four straight titles.
"I think this year we were striving for a state championship and trying to do something that no team had ever done before," Gengenbacher said. "To be able to end on that note is just incredible."
This championship also closed the book on the golden era of girls basketball for QND and the city of Quincy. Four-year starters Frericks and Gengenbacher helped QND go 124-5 over the last four years. They brought home a home a 2A second-place trophy in 2010 before the three-peat set in.
If the Quincy High School boys basketball teams of the late 1970s and early 1980s put Quincy on the map for basketball, these QND girls teams reminded us that the Gem City can still be home to the best basketball in the state.
"Quincy basketball is always going to be on the map now, both boys and girls," QND coach Eric Orne said.
These Lady Raiders will be remembered for more than the state titles. They'll be remembered for dominance.
They've won 53 consecutive games and 79 straight vs. in-state competition.
Last season, they became the first small-school girls basketball team in IHSA history to win every postseason game by double digits, and they did so in emphatic fashion, with an average margin of victory of 46.7 points a game.
This season was supposed to be tougher because of the bump up to 3A. The 3A postseason was supposed to yield fewer blowouts, more physicality and more challenging opponents earlier in the postseason.
Looking back, that seems laughable now. Sure, Morton hung with QND in the semifinals, and Vernon Hills didn't allow the title game to become a runaway like last year's 62-31 championship win over Breese Central.
Nonetheless, QND had an average postseason margin of victory of 27.3 points a game. The Lady Raiders' 67-51 win over Morton was their closest contest, and QND led that game 35-8 midway through the second quarter.
"We knew that we wanted this championship more than anyone else," Frericks said. "This was our goal, and we came out with that passion and desire to come out here and win this game, and that's what we did. We wouldn't want it any other way."
Orne wouldn't concede afterward that QND's run of success was over. And truthfully, it's probably not. With three starters and some young talent returning next season, the Lady Raiders are still bound to be a 20-plus win team.
Yet, without Frericks and Gengenbacher, it won't be the same. Even Orne had to admit that.
"It's a little bit of an end of the era, and what an amazing era," he said. "Really, it comes down to two special kids who really sacrificed and worked hard on and off the court. There was really no better way for them to go out."
QHS is still waiting for its next Bruce Douglas. QND probably will have a similar wait for its next Frericks or Gengenbacher.
And that's OK. That's what makes dominance and dynasties special. They don't come along every day, every year, every decade.
When they do come along, you embrace them the way QND's fans and other Quincyans embraced these Lady Raiders.
In 2005, as Jack Nicklaus was wrapping up the final round he'd ever play at the Masters, the greatest golfer the PGA Tour has ever known turned to his son Jackie, who was his caddy, and said, "Don't think it ain't been charming."
The same words ring true here.
You charmed us Lady Raiders. You charmed your school and you charmed your city in a way that will never be forgotten.