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None better than Broncos

Seniors lead Montini girls to fourth state title in program history

Published: Thursday, March 13, 2014 5:30 p.m. CDT
(PhotoNews/Clark Brooks for Shaw Media)
Montini's Kelly Karlis (middle) and Rainey Kuykendall celebrate with their teammates after the Broncos won the Class 3A girls championship game against Joliet Catholic on Saturday. Montini won the title game 57-44.
(PhotoNews/Clark Brooks for Shaw Media)
Montini's Claire Jakaitis corrals a loose ball during Saturday's Class 3A girls basketball state championship game at Redbird Arena. The Broncos won the game and their fourth state title in program history.

NORMAL – It’s not often a senior class is as talented and successful as Montini’s trio of Kateri Stone, Kelly Karlis and Sara Ross.

That triumvirate led the Broncos to a fourth class 3A title in five years when Montini defeated Joliet Catholic 57-44 in the state final Saturday afternoon in Redbird Arena.

The three-girl senior class leave the program with four trophies and three state titles. All three are signed to play for Division I programs next year.

It was easy for Karlis to pick out the best thing about winning state this year.

“Just the fact that I got to do it with my two best friends, Kateri and Sara,” Karlis said.

The Broncos took third last year after winning three titles in a row. Two years ago, a number of players transferred away, including Joliet Catholic leading scorer Jasmine Lumpkin, and their departure left some question marks around the program.

Montini coach Jason Nichols has spoken highly of the loyalty of his three seniors, and Karlis echoed those sentiments.

“We’ve been through a lot together,” Karlis said. “We played on the same travel team.”

All the time spent on the court together helped the trio, all of which were four-year varsity players, log a 138-10 record during their varsity careers. They surpassed last year’s senior Malayna Johnson as the winningest senior class in program history by one win.

“The end result has been an unbelievable four-year career,” Nichols said. “I owe so much to those three girls.”

In the final, Montini led 28-23 at halftime, but the Angels got back within 34-32 with 2:16 left in the third quarter. The Broncos put the game away by making five 3-pointers in the next five and a half minutes. Montini shot 11-for-20 on 3-pointers for the game.

Karlis led the Broncos (34-2) with 16 points on 4-for-7 3-point shooting. Sophomore Lea Kerstein scored 13 points and Stone added 12.

In the semifinal, the Broncos survived against Burlington Central in a 34-26 win. Montini had trailed 24-21 with less than four minutes left before going on an 11-0 run.

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