The Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball team lost its stars.
It just hasn’t lost its winning ways.
Despite the graduation of post Jordan Frericks and guard Kassidy Gengenbacher — three-time all-staters who led QND to a state runner-up performance as freshmen and then three straight state titles — the team has continued to excel this season.
QND showed that last week.
Coming off a lengthy Christmas break, the Lady Raiders put together an impressive showing Friday as they pulled out a 71-65 victory at Springfield, which was unbeaten and had won the large-school girls bracket at the State Farm Christmas Classic just four days earlier.
“I’m extremely proud of the way the girls played early and then held themselves together down the stretch,” QND coach Eric Orne told the Quincy Herald-Whig. “When we play Springfield, it’s always a big game and a great atmosphere. This wasn’t any different.”
The Lady Raiders (12-1) — who are 136-6 over the past 4 ½ seasons with the three state titles — built a 19-point halftime lead and led 51-33 with two minutes left in the third quarter before the Senators (15-1) rallied to two points but ultimately came up short.
“That was big,” Orne said. “It’s good to see this team hold on and not fold under those circumstances.”
QND — whose only loss this season is to St. Louis’s Incarnate Word, which is the No. 1-ranked team in the nation — is the only team in IHSA history to win three straight state titles in two different classes. The Lady Raiders won the 2A state title in 2011 & 2012 before they won the 2013 3A state championship.
Happ’s state’s ‘best kept secrets’
Rockridge senior and University of Wisconsin recruit Ethan Happ has been making quite the name for himself this season.
Soon, the Illinois Valley — just like everyone else around the state — will find out exactly why.
So far the Rockets, who play with St. Bede, Hall and Princeton in the Three Rivers Conference South Division, are tearing through the competition led by the 6-foot-7 Happ, who has averaged 30 points and 13 rebounds per game.
Rockridge — which already played host to Hall earlier this season — was scheduled to visit St. Bede tonight, but the game was postponed until Feb. 4 due to the winter weather.
“According to Rivals.com, Happ is a three-star recruit, but in my book, he may be one of the best kept secrets the state of Illinois has seen in a long time,” University of Illinois insider Kedric Prince wrote on the Moline Dispatch-Rock Island Argus’s Illinois website QCOnline.com/sports/illini. “Maybe he’s under the radar because the state is loaded with high school talent this year. Jahil Okafor, Tyler Ulis, Kieta Bates-Diop, Cliff Alexander, Paul White, Victor Law and Michael Finke are just a few of the names that everyone knows about. Happ belongs on that list, too.”
Happ — the cousin of Toronto Blue Jays pitcher and Peru native J.A. Happ — led the Rockets (14-0) to Macomb Holiday Tournament championship and was named the tournament’s MVP and then scored a game-high 26 points Saturday as Rockridge rallied to beat Rockford East 63-60 at Galesburg’s BSN Sports Shootout.
Seton in trouble again
Seton Academy has found itself in trouble with the IHSA once again.
Seton, which had an infamous and contentious Class 2A state title game with Harrisburg last March that led to its coach Brandon Thomas being suspended for this season, was involved in an incident Dec. 20 in a game against Chicago Leo.
A game between the schools was called with Seton up 49-47 with 6.6 seconds left after a Seton player punched a Leo player and fans spilled onto the court.
As a result of the incident, both programs and head coaches have been placed on probation, IHSA executive director Marty Hickman announced last Thursday.
“You are disappointed any time you hear about incidents like this at the high school level,” Hickman said in a statement. “Frankly, I was even more disturbed afterward to read comments placing blame on the officials for what occurred. We are failing our young people as teachers and coaches if we provide them with excuses and don’t hold them accountable for their actions.”
Five Leo players were suspended for a Dec. 26 game because of their involvement in the fight, while seven Seton players were also suspended for a Dec. 26 game.
After Thomas was suspended in April for this season, he resigned in May.
Jared Bell can be reached at 220-6938, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsJared.