By RICHARD MARKEY
Herald-Whig Sports Writer
No matter how much they'd prepared, the Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball team wasn't ready for the pressure.
It may have been the pressure of being a young team, with a completely new starting lineup under a new head coach, or it could have been the pressure from the Sullivan, Mo., squad.
Regardless, the sum of those factors contributed to the Raiders' 55-45 season-opening loss at the Gully Transportation Tip-off Shootout Friday night at The Pit.
Working against a 1-2-2 press and half-court zone, the Raiders found few quality shots and far fewer trips to the foul line as their offense looked out of sorts.
"I'll take blame for that as a coach," QND coach Bob Sheffield said. "We didn't have a lot of time to work against the 1-2-2 in the half court. Not knowing Sullivan or what they were going to give us, we'd heard 2-3 zone so we prepared for 2-3 zone. When they threw our the 1-2-2, we just weren't as prepared."
It showed in the Raiders' offensive woes. They shot 18 of 49 from the field and only made nine appearances at the foul stripe.
"We got nothing in the half court," said QND senior Tony Stella. "They played like a diamond and one. I don't even know. And we couldn't figure it out for the life of us."
Even as they struggled to get the offense rolling, QND led 24-22 at halftime and throughout the majority of the game until a fourth-quarter drought sealed its fate. A Justin Bottorff layup to start the fourth quarter put the Raiders ahead 39-38, but that was the last lead they would see. They finished the quarter shooting 2 of 14, while the Eagles hit 12 of 14 fourth quarter free throws.
"We've got to learn who to go to at those times," Sheffield said. "We've got to find the hot hand. Even though we didn't really have a hot hand, we've got to find good shots. Sometimes, we got good shots but we just didn't make them."
Sullivan took advantage of the Raiders' defense, attacking QND inside and drawing fouls. The Eagles were 28 of 35 from the free-throw line.
"When you're fouling and not moving your feet, it's tough to win games," Sheffield said. "I think we battled, but when they score over half their points at the free throw line it's hard to win."
Stella agreed the Raiders will be looking for some defensive adjustments.
"We've got to do more defensively. We were terrible defensively," Stella said. "We couldn't stop the ball, weren't in help defense and we weren't in gaps. They were just driving into the lane whenever they wanted and that's what led to all their free throws."
In the loss the Raiders showed their youth, playing a handful of underclassmen. Sheffield knows there will be a lot of learning in the early portion of the season.
"As young as we are, we're going to have some growing pains," Sheffield said. "You've got to be patient as a coaching staff. It's not easy. Nobody in that locker room wants to lose, but we've got to be patient. It's a long road and our main goal is to get better each game, and at the end of the season I like our chances."