NORMAL—Bouncing back to play in a third-place game after an emotional semifinal final loss can be a big challenge for teams at state.
Quincy Notre Dame’s veteran girls ballclub met the challenge Saturday afternoon at Illinois State’s Redbird Arena behind a defense that caused 27 turnovers, and came away with a 64-40 victory over Burlington Central’s young squad for third in Class 3A.
“I think last night is when we all kind of got a chip on our shoulders,” Quincy Notre Dame senior guard Kristen Gengenbacher said, referring to a semifinal loss to Joliet Catholic. “Like we’ve been talking about all season, we just get angry when stuff like that happens.
“I think after last night we wanted to come out here today and make a statement.”
Gengenbacher, who is going to San Diego on a volleyball scholarship, especially, played with emotion. She scored a game-high 22 points, while forward Mary Beth Hugenberg scored 19 and had six rebounds.
Quincy Notre Dame (30-4) used its press to force 19 Burlington Central first-half turnovers, including 13 in the first quarter. The turnovers led to 19 Quincy Notre Dame points.
“We’ve done this press now for seven years,” Quincy Notre Dame coach Eric Orne said. “We’ve perfected it a little bit over time. We’re going to deny the ball in. We’re going to take every dribble away.
“I grew up coming home and watching UNLV and Loyola Marymount for years. It’s an up-and-down style. It’s fun to play.”
It wasn’t fun for the Rockets. They never led, fell behind 14-4 in the first six minutes, and trailed 42-21 by halftime.
The 42 first-half points were more than the Rockets had given up for an entire game since a Jan. 18 loss to Fremd.
“I think we’re used to pressure, but Quincy Notre Dame had some great traps,” Burlington Central sophomore Sam Pryor said. “We had to be stronger bringing it up the floor.”
Pryor led Central with 10 points and sophomore Kayla Ross had nine. The Rockets were outscored 22-19 in the second half after making some adjustments.
“I think that with the traps, we got a little scared,” Ross said. “After halftime we talked about it and played better in the second half and knew how to break it and were stronger with it.”
The Rockets (28-6), who played all year without a senior in their first seven, never got closer than 19 in the second half.
They had to bounce back from nearly upsetting Montini in the semifinals Friday, losing a lead in the final three minutes.
“It was a tough one to try to regroup from today,” junior Alison Colby said. “At halftime, it’s been a while since we’ve been down that much.”
Central sophomore Shelby Holt finished with seven points and junior Aly DeTamble had eight rebounds for the Rockets, who won the school’s first-ever state basketball trophy for fourth place.
“We’re obviously elated,” Central coach Mark Smith said of the trophy and state trip. “It’s just a great run.
“Obviously, it’s not the way we wanted to end it. When you think back over the course of the season and the way the girls played, it’s just been a fantastic season.”