Unbelievable: Quincy Notre Dame clinches its third state title

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Unbelievable: Quincy Notre Dame clinches its third state title

Marek Makowski

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The first thing Kassidy Gengenbacher did after she dribbled the ball and released it at mid court when time expired in the Class 3A Championship Game was run over to her team and celebrate with Jordan Frericks.

“I’m going to miss playing with Jordan so much,” Gengenbacher said after the game as she wiped tears from the corners of her eyes. “It’s been incredible playing with her the last four years.”

The last 14 years or so, actually.

“We played three on threes with each other ever since I can remember every morning,” said Gengenbacher.  “We played in tournaments. We played on Little Blue Devils in fourth grade and[in] fifth grade Aces started.”

The girls’ history on the court has strengthened their friendship off it, where they know everything about each other.

“It’s like I know where she’s at all the time and she knows where I’m at,” Frerichs said. “She’s an awesome teammate and I couldn’t ask for a better one.”

There aren’t many better teammates in the country. Not only were the senior guards All-State selections, they lead the team in scoring this season with Kassidy racking up 18.5 points per game and Jordan scoring 16.5 points per game.

“They have a will and a desire and they believe in hard work and sacrifice,” said Quincy Notre Dame head coach Eric Orne. “Hard work and sacrifice finally paid off.”

They paid off in quick fashion, as the title game was one that Vernon Hills (31-8) simply couldn’t catch up in.

Quincy Norte Dame opened on a big run in its second straight state game, this run being 15-2, behind the quickness of Frericks (14 points, four rebounds, four steals) and Gengenbacher (20, three, two).

“We talked about just coming out with momentum was the key,” Frericks said. “That’s when we try to gain our lead and that’s what we did. We came out strong.”

When Vernon Hills first got on the board to make the score 2-9, Quincy Notre Dame responded with a free throw and a trey from the Gengenbacher sisters. After Vernon Hills captain Sydney Smith cut the deficit to three in the second quarter, Kristen Gengenbacher shot back two layups in response.  When Smith fired back with two consecutive deep 3s to cut the Lady Raiders’ lead to one, Kassidy sunk a 3 followed by a Michael Jordaneqsue drive and layup by Frericks.  But the Lady Raiders finished with momentum, too, by going on a 19-10 run in the last seven minutes of the game, allowing them to run out the clock with the Cougars trying to catch up with their passing.

“They would just make enough plays,” said Vernon Hills head coach Jason Nichols, whose loss gave him second place in two consecutive years. “Everything they do, they make just enough plays in a tight game like this.”

The Cougars couldn’t contain those plays made by the undefeated Lady Raiders (30-0) in a game that showed the Lady Raiders’ athleticism on both ends of the game, especially come the second half.

IMG_0440“That fourth quarter, they did what they do and they wear team down with their half-court press, their pressure, and their man-to-man,” Nichols said.

Those Lady Raider facets were integral in Quincy Notre Dame’s 62-45 victory, its third-consecutive state title and first since moving up from 2A to 3A, teams which both Gengenbacher and Frericks both starred on.

“We worked so hard this season,” Gengenbacher said. “In practice we gave 100 percent and worked so hard so for us to be able to end here. It really just sums up the whole season for us to end on a championship [because] we are a champion team.”

Quincy Notre Dame showed how much of a championship team it was when Frericks got in foul trouble early and had to spend 17 minutes of the game on the bench. The Lady Raiders stayed composed and maintained a lead when Freirchs watched from her seat. Whenever she entered the game again, the sparks would fly.

“When we’re both out there, I think we have so much chemistry,” Gugenbacher said. “I think that the girls on the team look up to us, and we’re the leaders on this team. So when we’re both out there at the same time, I think it just calms everyone down and everyone can step up and play their game. They know who to look to, and who’s going to be there, and who can step up and make the big play.”

The big-play loaded season for Orne’s undefeated team meant that it’s been 439 days since his last loss as a head coach on Dec. 19, 2011, which was just one of eight loses in the past six seasons for the Lady Raiders. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to boast about his individual program.

“Quincy Notre Dame is a success as a high school and so we look at it as, ‘It’s our time and an opportunity,'” Orne said.

Gengenbacher is happy with not only her opportunity to go downstate this year, but the past four years.

“It’s just incredible,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better high school career.”

Now with her last high school game behind her, Gengenbacher will have to look ahead to her future with Frericks since the two will split up: Gengenbacher to Lindenwood, Frerichs to Missouri-Columbia.

“I had so much fun playing with her,” she said.   “It’s probably going to be hard not playing with each other next year but I know Jordan will do awesome at Mizzou. I know we’ll be Skyping and FaceTiming a lot.”

But for now, the friends are content with looking at the present.

“My senior year is a lot of fun to end it in the right way,” said Frericks, “and a great way to end it with Kassidy.”

Photos by Mike Krebs/The Voice

 

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