ST. LOUIS — In an every-possession-counts kind of game that had a postseason feel to it, the Quincy Notre Dame Raiders took full advantage of their possessions in the final quarter.
Sisters Kristen and Kassidy Gengenbacher hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the fourth quarter as the Raiders rallied late to beat the Nashville Hornettes 41-36 on Thursday in the Coaches vs. Cancer Shootout at Scottrade Center.
"Those two 3s were probably the two biggest buckets of the game,'' Nashville coach Wayne Harre said. "That's my opinion on it. They don't hit those, we might have a chance.''
The Raiders, ranked No. 3 in the state in Class 3A, improved to 18-0, while the Hornettes, ranked No. 3 in the state in Class 2A, dropped to 26-2.
"It was a punch-punch here, counter punch,'' Wayne Harre said of the battle between the two heavyweight girls programs. "You could just see it. If we were ahead late, we were probably going to win, and if they were ahead late, they were probably going to win.''
The Hornettes led 28-23 after a basket by Shaye Harre early in the fourth quarter, but the two 3-pointers by the Gengenbacher sisters pulled the Raiders in front 29-28.
Jordan Frericks converted a three-point play to extend the Raiders' lead to 32-28 with 4:01 to go.
"We knew we needed to be ahead with three minutes left in the game, and that didn't happen,'' Wayne Harre said. "If we can do that, then they are kind of chasing us.''
But, it was the Hornettes who ended up doing the chasing.
The Hornettes got within 34-32 after a 3-pointer by Jordi Harre with 2:02 left, but the Raiders sank five of their eight free-throw attempts down the stretch to keep the lead.
The Raiders also ended up with the ball on two of their missed free throws as the Hornettes couldn't secure the rebound.
One of those missed rebounds led to a basket by Mary Beth Hugenberg that gave the Raiders a 37-32 advantage with 48 seconds remaining.
The other led to two free throws by Kristen Gengenbacher that put the Raiders ahead 40-34 with 17 seconds left.
The Hornettes also were hurt by turnovers. They committed 18 turnovers compared to six by the Raiders.
"You're going to have some against them, you can't help it,'' Wayne Harre said of the turnovers. "You do OK early, then your legs start going and then your mind starts going. It's the wear and tear. You have to be in great condition.
"They just keep coming and keep coming. What you try to do is survive, and those turnovers, they catch up to you sometimes.''
Having lost to the Raiders in the semifinals of the Class 2A state tournament in both 2010 and 2011, the Hornettes knew to expect relentless pressure on the ball.
"Coach Harre was talking in practice yesterday about how second-half turnovers is what killed us then, and it's kind of what killed us now,'' Shaye Harre said. "It's a learning experience and hopefully we can make a good run at it (in the playoffs).''
The game served as a tune-up for the postseason for both squads.
The Hornettes start tournament play next week at the Zeigler-Royalton Regional, while the Raiders start the playoffs in two weeks.
But, first the Raiders will play two more state-ranked opponents in Springfield (22-2 and No. 5 in Class 4A) and Rolling Meadows (22-1 and No. 3 in Class 4A) on Friday and Saturday in a shootout at QND.
"It's important because it puts value on every possession,'' Notre Dame coach Eric Orne said. "We've had few games where we've won by a significant margin. It teaches what we teach in practice. Value the ball, value each possession.
"There is a sense of toughness that our team had to show today. They were very physical and at times they were pushing us around.''
Shaye Harre, who had a team-leading 16 points and 14 rebounds, said the Hornettes are accustomed to physical games.
"It's up there, but I don't if it's the most physical,'' Shaye said of the matchup with the Raiders. "Central and Mater Dei are very physical, too, especially with all of their big girls.''
Kristen Gengenbacher led the Raiders with 17 points. Jordan Frericks contributed 11 points and Kassidy Gengenbacher had nine points.
Jordi Harre added nine points for the Hornettes, who jumped out to a 9-4 lead after a 7-0 surge that included a 3 from Hannah Yung.
The first half ended in a 17-17 tie after Kassidy Gengenbacher scored on a layup with 37 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
A 3-pointer by Shaye Harre triggered another 7-0 run for the Hornettes over the final three minutes of the third quarter, which ended with the Hornettes leading 26-21.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.