LOMBARD – Over the years, Montini's girls basketball team has proven to have a knack for winning games when it seems out of it.
The Broncos added one more to the list with a 66-63 win over Rolling Meadows in the final of the Montini Girls Basketball Christmas Tournament.
The Mustangs opened up a 10 point lead in the second quarter and an 11 point lead in the third, but both times Montini fought back.
Down the stretch it was senior Sara Ross making a crucial steal and lay up in the final minute to give Montini a 64-63 lead. Ross added two free throws with 27.4 seconds left to make it a three-point lead. Rolling Meadows senior Alexis Glasgow had two attempts to tie the game, but both fell short.
"We've been in this situation so many times," Montini senior Kateri Stone said. "I think because we're seniors now we're a lot more mature. We have to keep everybody calm. We have a lot of underclassmen who are new to this."
Meadows led 44-33 in the third quarter, but Montini got back in the game with a 13-0 run. Jackie Kempth banked in a three-pointer at the buzzer to give the Mustangs a 48-46 lead entering the final quarter. There were five lead changes in the final three minutes of the game.
"We saw glimpses of it out at Sterling and kind of put it all together this week," Montini coach Jason Nichols said. "We got to carry it over to the second half because it really doesn't mean anything if you don't finish what you want to get accomplished, which is to get back down to state playing for a state title. I think we took a great step in that direction."
The game was a meeting between two top ranked teams in a showcase for girls basketball. Both teams have three seniors who will play Division I college basketball.
Kemph, a St. Louis recruit, had 20 points and took home the tournament MVP. The Northwestern-bound Glasglow scored a game-high 26 points. Jenny Vliet, another St. Louis recruit, added 11 points.
Stone (Colgate) scored 23 points to lead Montini. Ross (IUPUI) finished with 12 points and Kelly Karlis (Ohio) scored 10.
These two teams met in the final of this tournament last year. Montini also won that one. The rematch was played in front of a tightly packed crowd Saturday night.
"We knew going into it that it was going to be a huge environment and it's kind of what we live for," Ross said. "We love big games like that. Not so much the close games because everybody always gets a heart attack. We just tried to keep our composure. It was crazy, but we were glad to come out with the win."