BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The annual visit to the Bloomington/Normal area for the State Farm Holiday Classic was a good one for the Quincy Notre Dame boys basketball team.
The Raiders beat Champaign St. Thomas More (9-3) in the first round, then defeated unbeaten El Paso-Gridley in a quarterfinal. An upset of top-seeded Aurora Christian, the No. 9-ranked team in Class 2A, put the Raiders in the title game, where they rallied from a 13-point deficit in the third quarter to briefly lead before losing 73-65 to Bloomington Central Catholic.
However, the Raiders and many of their followers left the Shirk Center on Saturday night with a bitter taste. The six-player all-tournament team was announced after the championship game, and no Raiders were selected.
QND certainly had two players worthy of consideration. Senior Nick Schwartz was the team's leading scorer in the tournament with 71 points in four games, and he hit two big baskets late in the victory over Aurora Christian. His highest scoring output was 21 points in the title game.
Senior Dylan Foley was right behind Schwartz with 69 points, and he also averaged 5.5 rebounds. He scored a tournament-best 22 points against El Paso-Gridley, and he had 18 in the title game against BCC.
Named to the all-tournament team were Riley Morris of Champaign St. Thomas More, Jack Cook of St. Joseph-Ogden, Tyriel Nelson of Providence St. Mel, Jack Weber of El Paso-Gridley, and Luke Yoder and Tommy Nelson of Bloomington Central Catholic.
Morris was the tournament's leading scorer with 104 points, including 40 against Peoria Christian. However, the Sabers lost their first two games and finished 13th in the tournament. Cook was second with 94 points, and he led St. Joseph-Ogden to the consolation championship.
Yoder, who has received recruiting interest from Quincy University, was third with 84 points, followed by Tommy Nelson (79) and Tyriel Nelson (77), who led Providence St. Mel to a third-place finish.
Schwartz (71 points) and Foley (69) both outscored Weber (68), whose team finished sixth and went 2-2 in the tournament. However, it would not be out of the question to expect that any votes for a player from QND were split, while Weber, Morris, Cook and Nelson were clearly the only all-tournament worthy selections on their teams.
Asked after the championship game for his thoughts on the all-tournament team, Raiders coach Kevin Meyer replied, "Frustrated."
He later added, "The right team won the championship, but if you watched this game, (Bloomington Central Catholic) had to change (its defense) because of those two guys just going 1-on-1 and scoring at will. They didn't have any stop for them.
"I just feel really bad for Dylan and Nick. I'm not begging for anything, but I have a hard time looking at any coach in this bracket who wouldn't want No. 4 (Foley) or No. 15 (Schwartz) on their team. You know what? If you don't want them, I'll keep them all day long."
Dan Highland, the tournament president since 1995, said all-tournament ballots were distributed to all coaches in each bracket and selected members of the media covering the tournament. A list of the top scorers in the tournament after three days also was provided. Highland said 16 ballots were collected.
(NOTE: No ballots were given to three members of the Quincy media who were at the tournament for all four days -- Eric Ervin of WGEM Radio, Jeff Wellman of WTAD Radio and myself.)
Mac Little was named to the all-tournament team last year when QND finished fourth, and Justin Bottorff was named to the team in 2016 when the Raiders won their last title. However, QND didn't have any all-tournament selections in 2015 when it also won the championship.
Thirteen Raiders have been named to the all-tournament team since they played in the Classic for the first time in 1999. They have played for the championship nine times.
The only school in the small school boys bracket to have more all-tournament picks is Bloomington Central Catholic, which has had 37. The Saints have been in the field since 1975 and has played for the championship 10 times.