Even after you have won two state titles and are favored to win a third, there’s something new to learn.
‘‘Watching the Young film was a little tough,” said Montini guard Kateri Stone, who relived Friday’s 54-45 loss with her teammates at practice Sunday. “But we learned a lot, which is good. It was a wake-up call. It’s going to bite us in the butt if we don’t fix it now.”
Montini coach Jason Nichols doesn’t have to worry about Stone correcting her mistakes. After a particularly bad shooting night, she’s been known to practice into the wee hours of the morning until she has to be thrown out of the gym.
“I love Kateri Stone,” Nichols said. “We’ve had a ton of good players who have come through here, and you could line them all up and she’d be one of my top three or four picks because she can flat-out bring it. She can shoot it, she can spaces defenses, she makes people around her better.
“She’s also one of our harder workers. She’ll go to the gym at 11 or 12 at night after bad shooting night and she’ll shoot until it closes. She’s a tireless worker. She’s a big-game kid. She came up big as a sophomore in the state semifinals and basically won us the state title.”
Stone began playing basketball in a YMCA league when she was barely six years old. By sixth grade, she was playing in travel leagues. When it came time to decide on high school, her AAU coach urged her to check out Montini.
“I had never heard of Montini, but Coach Nichols laid it all on the line for me and I said, ‘Wow, I can see myself playing for this guy,’ ’’ Stone said.
The 6-1 senior, who will head to Colgate next fall, was a freshman on the end of the varsity bench when Whitney Holloway (Notre Dame) and Whitney Adams (North Carolina) led Montini to its second consecutive state title in 2011.
“A lot of people didn’t think we were going to be any good after they graduated,” Stone said.
But Stone helped prove those critics wrong. The team’s second-leading scorer her sophomore season, she scored 10 points in the final 7:07 of a Class 3A semifinal to the Broncos rally to defeat Hillcrest for their third consecutive state title.
More turmoil followed that offseason, however. Nikia Edom left for Plainfield East, Jasmine Lumpkin left for Joliet Catholic and Diamond Thompson bolted for WW South. Nevertheless, with a roster featuring five freshmen and two sophomores, Montini finished third in the state.
“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs here,” Stone said. “Somehow, we manage to get through it.”
Stone, who will finish her career with more than 1,000 points and 250 three-pointers, is a big reason Montini has weathered the storms.
“She’s a little bit too hard on herself, but her value to this program is awesome, it really is,” Nichols said.