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Girls Basketball: Ohio State recruit Aaliyah Patty showcases full package in Montini's first-round tournament win

Montini's Aaliyah Patty shoots in a crowd against Benet in the championship game of the 8th Annual Montini Christmas tournament on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016. Bill Ackerman for Shaw Media
Montini's Aaliyah Patty shoots in a crowd against Benet in the championship game of the 8th Annual Montini Christmas tournament on Friday, Dec. 30, 2016. Bill Ackerman for Shaw Media

Aaliyah Patty accepted the pass, eyed the basket and calmly hit the corner 3-point shot.

A 6-foot-3 high school girl shooting threes?

Patty's coach, Montini's Jason Nichols, doesn't mind it a bit.

"When I make them," Patty laughed.

All kidding aside, Patty at times resembles a guard trapped inside a post player's frame.

It's a big reason why Patty, a Montini senior, is committed to Ohio State. It was on full display Wednesday at the Montini Christmas Tournament, as Patty had 17 points, four rebounds and four steals in the Lady Broncos' 75-25 first-round win over Huntley.

Illysse Pitts added 15 points and Sam Mitchell had 11 for Montini (14-1), which advanced to play Marist in the second round Thursday.

At alternate times Wednesday Patty resembled a true post, and at other times fluidly operated on the perimeter. The latter usually came when Patty was paired with 6-foot-5 Wake Forest recruit Lindsey Jarosinski.

Patty dropped in a perfect high-post pass to Jarosinski for Montini's first score. Later in the second half, she took a pass at the top of the key, faked and gracefully drove guard-like down the lane.

It's those kind of skills that Ohio State has encouraged Patty to develop.

"That's one thing they emphasize, is I'm going to have to play more outside," Patty said. "I'm average height in college. They tell me to work on my threes, ballhandling. I'm trying to work on that."

She's still comfortable in the post, like when Patty dropped in a baby hook from the post Wednesday.

"I still have to go inside where there are people shorter than me," Patty said. "When people can match my size, I can go outside and play both. At the college level, you have to work on both."

Hard to believe now, but Patty was somewhat of a late bloomer.

She played primarily on the sophomore level as a freshman, with cameos on varsity. By last year she was one of the best players on Montini's team that took third in Class 4A. Now Patty is clearly the alpha female.

"Some times kids just aren't ready [when they first get to high school]," Nichols said. "It took her a little time. It didn't mean she wasn't going to be good."

Patty is good now, averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds a night. She's even made close to 20 3-pointers this year, shooting the highest percentage from beyond the arc on Montini.

Nichols asks who's better in Illinois' senior class. And he thinks she can be better.

"I still think she can bring a little bit more to the table," Nichols said. "I think she can score more, be efficient more. To me she's a 20 and 10 kid every night, a player who can go inside and out. She is easily one of the top players in the state of Illinois. I love her. She just has to show up every night. I want her to dominate even more. I know she has it in her."

With Patty and Jarosinki, Montini has twin posts that few teams can match. Depth, though, is an issue. Junior guard Zoe Zacker tore her ACL in Montini's first game of the season – her third ACL injury in high school.

That depth could be put to the test this week with opponents like unbeatens Nazareth and Geneva.

"We need [Francesca Kokkines] and Sydney [Prochaska] to be more consistent because we don't have a lot of depth," Nichols said. "But we're trying to develop. You can still be good when you have good seniors and good juniors, and we have that."

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