JACKSONVILLE, Ill. -- The door was left open for the Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team. Aysa Smith slammed it shut.
Pleasant Plains led the Raiders 30-25 with five minutes remaining in Monday's Class 2A Jacksonville Super-Sectional at Illinois College. QND leading scorer Sydney Hummert was just subbed in with four fouls to help the Raiders on their final push, but her stint back on the floor was short.
After running 30 seconds off the clock, Smith found a crease and drove into the lane for a shot. Hummert went to contest, but Smith got the shot off. As the ball fell through the net, the official blew his whistle signalling a foul.
Smith converted the and-one free throw to put the Cardinals ahead 33-25. To make matters worse, Hummert was off the floor for the final 4:33. That eventually spelled the end of QND's season, as Pleasant Plains defeated the Raiders 46-34 to move onto the state tournament at Illinois State's Redbird Arena.
"Me fouling out, that really just took me over," Hummert said, her face stained with tears. "I think the team knew they had to step it up without me in there, and they really did that.
Raiders coach Eric Orne agreed.
"It was a double whammy for us. (Smith) scored and got the foul," Orne said. "But we still had a chance. We came down and still kept fighting."
Even without its leading scorer, QND (25-4) managed to get the lead down to six. The Cardinals (26-3) never let them get closer.
"It's a lot easier to play without Sydney on there for us," Pleasant Plains coach TJ Fraase said. "She's one hell of a player."
Fouls were an issue throughout the contest for the Raiders. QND was whistled for 22 fouls and the Cardinals took advantage, going 23 of 29 from the free-throw line.
"We were trying to make them attack and make them foul," Fraase said.
Pleasant Plains' defense was strong, too. The Raiders finished 13 for 34 from the floor and they turned the ball over 19 times. The first half was an offensive struggle for both teams, but QND couldn't get anything to fall.
The Raiders were 3 for 13 in the first quarter and just 0 for 2 in the second quarter as they trailed 18-11 at the half.
"I give Pleasant Plains a lot of credit. Defensively, they did a great job," Orne said. "We had some really good looks early in the game. If we knock those down we are more comfortable, but when some of those early shots didn't fall I thought we tightened up. It effected the entire game."
Hummert was held to single digits for the first time this postseason, finishing with seven points. Abbey Schreacke, the team's second-leading scorer, had eight points all in the second half, but Blair Eftink arguably had her best game.
Eftink led the Raiders with 12 points, and seemingly every time they needed a shot to keep in the contest she delivered.
"I felt like I really had to step up and kind of help the game get going," Eftink said.
Her efforts were noticed on the bench, too.
"She just wanted to play tonight," Orne said. "She came out and made some big-time plays for us when we were struggling. You don't always expect that from your freshman players, but it was really a growth spurt for her."
Smith finished with a game-high 16 points for the Cardinals, though no other Pleasant Plains player reached double figures. The Cardinals only shot 36 percent from the floor, and were 1 for 10 from behind the 3-point line, but they found ways to win.
"Eric does a great job with those girls. They follow the system and do a great job," Fraase said of QND. "We kept telling the girls, ‘You've got to keep attacking. You've got to play to win.'"
Orne had a similar message to his girls, but they missed one factor that is often necessary in a game between two strong teams.
"In a game like this, you need two or three bounces to go your way when you're down," Orne said. "We never got those two or three bounces."
The loss brings to close a season of resurgence for the Raiders. Their 25 wins are the most since 2014, and it was the first time QND reached the super-sectional since five-straight state tournament appearances from 2010-2014.
"I love every single one of these girls," Hummert said. "We have bonded since the beginning of the season. Our game just wasn't our game tonight, but we have to move on and keep our heads up high."
Class 3A Jacksonville Super-Sectional
Pleasant Plains 46, QND 34
PLEASANT PLAINS (26-3)
Fraase 0-1 6-8 6, Jachino 1-7 4-4 6, Smith 4-9 7-8 16, Hergenrother 3-6 1-2 7, A. Kanllakan 2-4 2-3 6, Morley 0-0 0-0 0, Skeeters 0-0 0-0 0, M. Kanllakan 0-0 0-0 0, Ward 0-0 0-0 0, Long 1-3 2-2 4. Totals 11-30 23-29 46.
Peters 1-4 0-0 3, Schreacke 3-6 1-1 8, Hummert 3-8 1-2 7, Eftink 4-10 2-2 12, Little 1-3 0-0 2, Kenning 0-0 0-0 0, Quintero 0-0 0-0 0, Schaffer 0-0 0-0 0, Reed 0-2 0-0 0, Ray 1-1 0-0 2, Lepper 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 13-34 4-5 34.
Pleasant Plains 11 7 10 18±46
QND 9 2 12 11--34
3-point field goals--Pleasant Plains 1-10 (Smith 1-3, Fraase 0-1, Kanllakan 0-1, Long 0-1, Jachino 0-4), QND 4-13 (Eftink 2-5, Peters 1-2, Schreacke 1-2, Little 0-2, Reed 0-2). Rebounds--Pleasant Plains 25 (Jachino 5), QND 18 (Schreacke 7, Hummert 7). Turnovers--Pleasant Plains 14, QND 19. Fouls--Pleasant Plains 10, QND 22. Fouled out--Hummert, Peters.