Montini puts away pesky De La Salle, moves on to state semis

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Winning doesn’t have to be pretty. It just has to be winning.

“Tonight we weren’t very crisp with what we did,” Montini coach Jason Nichols said. “But we found a way to win and that’s OK. I’d rather win like that than lose like that.”

Montini struggled early against De La Salle’s zone and led only 11-7 with under two minutes to play in the first quarter. But the Broncos finished the first half with a 20-3 flurry en route to a 59-27 victory over the Meteors at the Class 4A Hinsdale Supersectional.

Montini (32-2) will face Burlington Central (30-4) in a Class 3A state semifinal Friday at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State in Normal.

Nichols knows the Broncos will have to play better to avoid the same fate as last year when they lost to Vernon Hills in their state final opener.

“I can’t explain it because against Marshall [in the sectional final] we played really, really well,” Nichols said. “We were kind of sloppy in every phase of the game tonight. It seems like every time we come to a supersectional we haven’t been very good.

“We just didn’t move the ball,” he added. “We didn’t penetrate. We wanted to get the ball inside. We don’t do a good job of looking at that right now. But were going to need to if we want to win this thing. We better look inside a little bit and trust those kids.”

Junior 6-1 forward Rainey Kuykendall did her part, leading Montini with 13 points, five rebounds and two blocked shots. Sophomore guard Lea Kerstein also scored 13 points including three three-pointers, and Kelly Karlis added nine.

“The great thing about this team is you don’t rely on one person,” said Kateri Stone, who was held to three points. “If one of us has an off night like I think I had an off night tonight, it’s nice to be able to rely on my teammates.

“I think we’ve had a great season so far, but it’s not over,” she added. “We definitely have to fix a lot of little things because those little things can come back to haunt us like they did last year. That’s what we’re really emphasizing this year. We’re not going to get away with anything.”

Six-foot-6 sophomore Chardanae Hamilton had nine points, Akilah Fletcher added eight and Taylor Torrence had six for De La Salle (18-7), which opened the second half on a 12-5 run to close within 36-22. But Montini answered with a 9-0 run to put the game out of reach.

“I definitely feel we came out more aggressively in the second half,” Fletcher said. “I wish we could have come out the same way at the start. I definitely feel like we wouldn’t have lost by as much if we had come out at the start being aggressive and hustling and playing tighter defense.”

Being the first De La Salle team – boys or girls – to reach the supersectional since 1983 was little consolation.

“It’s obviously bittersweet,” Torrence said.  

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