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Tourney title a big step for Montini girls

Published: Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 10:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Tuesday, July 29, 2014 9:58 p.m. CDT

LOMBARD – Believe it or not, the Montini girls basketball team feels disrespected.

Despite winning a state trophy in Class 3A the past four years and returning three seniors with Division I commitments this season, the Broncos had a chip on their shoulder entering their own Christmas tournament last weekend.

Montini came away champions, beating both of last year’s Class 4A finalists in the process. After knocking off defending 4A champ Marian Catholic 52-48 in the semifinals, they defeated Rolling Meadows 66-63 in a rematch of last year’s tournament final.

“It was really big considering we didn’t have that much respect going into it,” senior Sara Ross said. “We don’t really buy into that. We play for ourselves.”

Montini trailed by 10 points in the second quarter and by as many as 11 in the third against Rolling Meadows, but fought back both times. Ross made a crucial steal and layup in the final minute to give Montini a 64-63 lead. She added two free throws with 27.4 seconds left to make it a three-point lead.

The Broncos (15-1) may have restored some of the mystique the program has built up in recent years. They may also be playing their best basketball of the season.

“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 [of the season] 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.”

Kateri Stone scored 23 points to lead Montini in the final. Ross finished with 12 points and Kelly Karlis and Kaylee Bambule scored 10 each.

The final 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.”

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Tournament results (in order)

• Montini 77, Oak Park-River Forest 40 • Montini 59, Fremd 51 • Montini 52, Marian Catholic 48 • Montini 66, Rolling Meadows 63

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