LOMBARD – Ever since last year’s loss in the state semifinal, Kateri Stone and the rest of Montini’s girls basketball team have had one thought on their minds.
The Broncos have wanted to get back to state and win. They took care of the first part of that equation this week.
Montini is heading back to state after defeating De La Salle 59-27 at the Hinsdale Central supersectional on Monday. Despite the success, the memory of the shock of the defeat to Vernon Hills in last year’s state semifinal hasn’t faded away.
“Every single day, every practice, it’s on our minds,” Stone said. “It’s freshly imprinted.”
The senior guard scored 17 points in the 54-31 win against Marshall in the Glenbard South sectional final Feb. 27. Rainey Kuykendall and Lea Kerstein each scored 13 points in the supersectional victory.
This is Montini’s fifth straight state appearance and sixth in seven years. They’ve also won 10 straight sectional titles. Coach Jason Nichols said the team’s goal throughout the season and into the playoffs has been simply to get back to state.
“If you don’t get downstate you can’t compete in the state finals, so we need to stay focused,” Nichols said.
In the state semifinals, Montini will face Burlington Central. The 27-4 Rockets have won 12 games in a row. Three of the Rockets’ top four scorers are sophomores: Sam Pryor, Shelby Holt and Kayla Ross.
Montini (32-2) has more experienced talent leading the way with Division I-bound seniors Stone, Sara Ross and Kelly Karlis. The Broncos enter state with an eight-game winning streak. Their last loss came Jan. 31 against Young, a state finalist in Class 4A.
Despite a dominant postseason that includes an average margin of victory of 42.8 points per game, Nichols has come away looking for more out of his team in each of the past three games.
“Let’s try to be excellent,” Nichols said. “Let’s not try to be great. That’s what we’re always trying to do. Hopefully we keep pushing towards that.”
Class 3A state semifinal
Who: Montini vs. Burlington Central
When: 12:15 p.m. Friday
Where: Redbird Arena, Normal