David Adam

Who can ruin Raiders' run to state?

QND-IW-BBKB
QND's Carter Cramsey drives the baseline past Illini West's Kennedy Gooding. | H-W Photo/Michael Kipley
Michael Kipley1|
By Herald-Whig
Posted: Feb. 20, 2017 8:10 am Updated: Feb. 23, 2017 6:46 pm

Everybody is zero-and-zero now. Throw the records out the window. In the postseason, anything can happen. It's why we play the game.

All the basketball cliches in the world, however, can't refute this fact: It's going to take a heckuva team to defeat the Quincy Notre Dame boys in the Illinois Class 2A tournament, which gets under way Monday with the start of regional play.

The Raiders, ranked No. 1 in the Class 2A state poll, have a 24-2 record. Their two losses are to Quincy High School, a Class 4A team with 20 victories, and St. Mary's, which is 22-3 and ranked No. 2 in Class 4 in Missouri.

They are scoring 73 points per game, boast a pair of 1,000-point career scorers in Carter Cramsey and Justin Bottorff, and have an average winning margin of nearly 19 points.

So who stands in the way of QND making a run to the state tournament this year?

Class 2A regional at QND

It would be the upset of all upsets in high school basketball if either No. 10 seed Beardstown (10-17) or No. 11 seed Rushville-Industry (5-21) were to defeat the Raiders in Tuesday night's semifinals.

QND will face No. 4 seed Pleasant Plains (20-8) or No. 7 seed Illini West (15-13) in Friday night's championship game. The Raiders led the Chargers by 16 points at halftime last Friday, then scored 25 straight points and didn't miss a shot in the third quarter.

Plains could be a tough out, even at the Pit.

The Cardinals' backcourt of floppy-haired 5-foot-9 Cole Greer, 5-foot-10 Daulton Nibbe and 5-foot-9 sharpshooter Isaac Collins was too quick and too elusive for last year's QND team. They combined for 40 points in a 73-55 victory in the sectional championship at Beardstown.

Nibbe is gone, but Collins and Greer are back. Collins is No. 5 on the state list for career 3-pointers. Greer set a school record for career assists this season. Pleasant Plains has won 10 straight games and won't be intimidated by the Raiders.

Class 2A sectional at Stanford Olympia

The Raiders would draw the winner of the Farmington Regional. No. 2 seed Stanford Olympia is the favorite after finishing 21-7. The Spartans are led by 6-foot-7 Charles Payton, who is averaging 25.4 points and 12.9 rebounds per game. He transferred from Bloomington during the second semester last year but could not play for Olympia until this year.

Another threat is 6-5 senior Luke Litwiller (14.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg), but Olympia largely goes how Payton goes.

Olympia must beat No. 3 seed Farmington (22-5) on the Farmers' home floor to win the regional. Guard Eric Higgs is Farmington's all-time leading scorer, and the Farmers get plenty of points off turnovers.

Keep an eye on Deer Creek-Mackinaw, the No. 6 seed. It handed both Peoria Quest and Tremont their first losses of the season. The Chiefs (16-12) are led by former Illini West coach John Hughs.

On the other side of the sectional bracket are the winners of regionals at Riverton and Petersburg.

Tremont (23-3) is ranked No. 6 in the state and is the No. 1 seed at Petersburg. The Turks play 12 players and press the entire game to force tempo. They have topped 70 points 11 times this season. Their top player is 6-5 senior Conor Honan, who's averaging 17.4 points and 7.9 rebounds.

Getting out of the regional won't be easy for the Turks.

The No. 4 seed is Illini Bluffs (24-5), led by 6-foot-8 forward Taylor Bruninga, who has received offers from several NCAA Division I mid-majors. The Tigers, coached by former Hamilton coach Clay Vass, average more than 72 points per game.

Petersburg PORTA, the No. 5 seed, could be tough to beat on its home floor. The Blue Jays (21-5) are led by one of central Illinois' top players in 6-foot-5 senior Max Muller.

Pittsfield (24-2), the No. 2 seed, has beaten Plains and PORTA. The Saukees lost 62-39 to QND on Jan. 7 but since has won 13 straight games, and their deliberate, defensive style could cause problems for the faster paces of Tremont or Illini Bluffs.

West Hancock (20-5), the No. 3 seed, is the likely opponent for Pittsfield in the regional final at Riverton. Last year's team was a heavy underdog to QND in a first-round regional game, but it hung with the Raiders for 2 1/2 quarters before losing 90-57. Friday night's regional title game will be a slugfest.

Class 2A super-sectional at Springfield

The teams feeding into this game are coming from the Bloomington. Champaign, Danville and Decatur area.

Monticello (18-5), the top seed at Tolono, recently beat St. Teresa 54-41, and it leans on 6-5 Calvin Fisher (14.8 points, 5.8 rebounds), 6-3 Luke Stokowski (13.5 points, 7.5 rebounds) and 6-4 Isiah Florey (9.9 points, 5.2 rebounds). Argenta-Oreana (17-10) is not expected to stop the Sages in the regional.

St. Teresa (19-5), the top seed at Macon Meridian, is very balanced and likely will have to beat a young Warrensburg-Latham team, which is 20-5 and is led by 6-foot-9 Andrew Butts, to win its regional.

Hoopeston Area (22-4) is the top seed at Bismarck-Henning but has lost three of its last five games, including a 53-36 loss to the regional host and the No. 7 seed. Champaign St. Thomas More (10-16) is the No. 3 seed, based largely on a tougher schedule that is highlighted by two victories over St. Joseph-Ogden.

Bloomington Central Catholic (16-10) is the top seed at Gibson City. The Saints have beaten St. Teresa and Olympia but lost their last three games and were beaten 66-45 to QND in the semifinals of the State Farm Classic. The Saints must get past No. 6 seed Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (20-8) in the semifinals.

No. 5 seed St. Joseph-Ogden (18-9) is 7-7 in its last 14 games and must get past No. 4 seed Paxton-Buckley-Loda (18-7) in the regional semifinals to face BCC. The Spartans are the defending Class 2A state champs and return Brandon Trimble, who averages 30 points per game and had 51 in a loss to QND in the title game of the State Farm Classic in Bloomington.

"We'll definitely see them again in the super-sectional," Trimble said of QND after the loss in Bloomington. "I can't wait to play them."

Many other teams are saying the same thing.

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