NORMAL – Aaliyah Patty and Lindsey Jarosinski are twin towers four years in the construction.
Both arrived at Montini together.
Patty, 6-foot-3, didn't play varsity as a freshman, though. Patty and Jarosinski, herself 6-foot-5, barely saw the court together for two years after that.
It was up to them to make the pairing a reality.
"Coach said before this season it would be our decision to do high/low and play together," said Jarosinski, a Wake Forest recruit. "We showed we could do it."
The payoff came Friday.
Patty, an Ohio State recruit, had 15 points and six rebounds. Jarosinski added 11 points and eight rebounds. Both were also factors in Montini's lockdown defense, as the Lady Broncos beat previously undefeated and No. 1-ranked Edwardsville 37-30 in a Class 4A semifinal at Redbird Arena.
In doing so, Montini (34-2) avenged a loss to the Tigers (30-1) in last year's semifinal, and advanced to the Class 4A final at 7:15 p.m. Saturday against defending champion Geneva.
The Lady Broncos can win their fifth state title, first since 2014 and first in Class 4A.
"After last year, we remembered how we felt," Patty said. "We didn't want to feel that way again."
Patty and Jarosinski combined for just four points and three shot attempts in that Edwardsville game last year, a 37-35 Montini loss.
New year, entirely different story.
Jarosinski dropped in a short hook on Montini's first possession, and fed Patty on the high/low moments later.
It was a harbinger of things to come.
Jarosinski had nine points and seven rebounds in the first half alone, as Montini led 21-15 at half.
Edwardsville closed within 21-20, but Patty answered with a 3-pointer from the top of the key, and scored off a lob.
"You just can't simulate that size," Edwardsville coach Lori Blade said. "Their bigs did what they needed to do. They buried us too many times."
They also did things they couldn't do before this year.
Patty's 3-pointer from the top of the key capped a 9-0 run to end the first quarter with Montini ahead 10-7.
No fluke, either.
Patty has hit 41 3s this year at a 37 percent rate.
"To play them together somebody had to develop an outside game, and Aaliyah did it," Montini coach Jason Nichols said. "She can hit the mid-range jumper, step out and hit the 3. It's allowed us to space the floor better. They've earned playing together through hard work."
It's a huge change from Montini's traditional four-out offense Nichols has won four state championships with.
And it's worked.
The Lady Broncos are unbeaten against Illinois opponents this season.
"Coach told us before this year, this is our year to play together," Patty said. "We've been playing together for four years and after a while you learn more about each other. We've come a long way. Having two bigs, it's hard to defend."
It was, though, a grind against Edwardsville.
Montini went without a field goal in the fourth quarter until Ilysse Pitts' dagger 3-pointer made it 34-25 with 2:18 left. The Lady Broncos played big chunks of the game without junior point guard Sam Mitchell.
They persevered with defense.
Edwardsville shot just 26.7 percent (12-for-45) for the game. Rachel Pranger, the Tigers' second-leading scorer, scored just four points on 2-for-8 shooting. Iowa recruit Kate Martin led Edwardsville with 13 points. Pitts added eight for Montini.
"Defensively, no doubt about it our size made a difference," Nichols said. "No disrespect, but I felt like we could have held [Edwardsville] under 20 [points]. They had so many offensive rebounds and second-chance baskets. If you would have told me we'd hold them to 30 points, I would have said 'beautiful.' Our length really disrupted them on the perimeter."
The Geneva game will be a rematch of the championship of the Montini Christmas Tournament, which Montini won 52-50.
Nichols knows his team can play better than Friday, and will need to.
"We found a way to win tonight," he said, "without playing our best."