By DAVID ADAM
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
The Canton boys basketball team, ranked No. 4 in the Missouri Class 2A state poll, looked at Saturday night's game as a chance to prove itself on a big stage.
Holding Quincy Notre Dame to six points in the first half en route to a 57-26 victory in the Gully Transportation Tip-Off Shootout certainly ought to grab everyone's attention.
"How many teams come into The Pit and beat Notre Dame at home?" senior guard Tyler Niemann said. "How many Missouri teams do that? To be able to do it in the fashion we did, we're pretty proud of that."
The last time the Raiders lost to a Missouri team on its home floor was a 53-52 decision to Jefferson City Helias on Feb. 11, 2011. That game ended on a last-second shot.
Saturday night's game was never that close.
QND missed 10 of its first 11 shots and trailed 11-2 after the first quarter. The Raiders were still within nine points at 15-6 midway through the second quarter, but Canton closed on a 12-point run with Gabe McKenzie hitting a pair of 3-pointers and a pull-up jumper to spark the surge.
McKenzie opened the second half with a 3-pointer from the right wing and a conventional 3-point play, making the score 33-6 before freshman Carter Cramsey ended the drought with a shot from in the lane at the 3:13 mark of the third quarter. Before that basket, the Raiders had missed 23 of 25 shots.
"It's one of those nights," QND coach Bob Sheffield said. "If we stood in the middle of the ocean, we couldn't hit water. Part of it was execution, and we have to work on that as a coaching staff. Part of it was Canton. Actually, a lot of it was Canton. That was a great team."
Canton's biggest lead of the game was 31 points when McKenzie hit a baseline jumper to open the fourth quarter, making the score 43-12. McKenzie finished with 24 points and six rebounds in his first-ever appearance at The Pit, either as a fan or a player.
"It's definitely intense," he said. "It's a little different atmosphere from our little town in Canton."
Tigers coach Andy Anderson said his team had spent the past three days in practice preparing for the crowd.
"They have a great crowd here. This is the hardest place in the area to play for schools our size," Anderson said. "For example, we're going to be shooting free throws and their fans are going to be talking to us. It's different, and we had to be mentally ready."
The Raiders scored just 12 points in the first three quarters and needed three 3-pointers in the fourth quarter to help crack 20 points. Cramsey led the Raiders with nine points.
It was the lowest scoring output for a QND team since a 12-9 loss to Carthage on Feb. 1, 1957.
Notre Dame has opened the season with two losses for the first time since the 1994-95 season when it lost to Aledo, Unity and Milwaukee Bay View in the Quincy Notre Dame Tip-Off Tournament.
Nonetheless, Sheffield saw silver linings in the second half.
"We challenged them at halftime, and I was very, very proud," he said. "We played hard in the second half.
"I told the young men that Monday, we're going to be on the floor for about an hour, and then we're going to watch film. You can't pass this up. We're going to look at this, and we're going to be critical, but we're also going to be patient."
"It's a little demoralizing, but we know where we can be," senior Barry Welper, who had five points, said. "We have hope we're going to get there. We have to stay patient. That's all we can do."