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Montini handles tired Brooks

Brooks looked like a team playing its fourth game in four days. Montini looked like a team favored to win another state championship.

No. 10 Montini, the state’s top-ranked Class 3A team, overcame an early eight-point deficit behind 16 points from Rainey Kuykendall, 15 points from Lea Kerstein and 14 points and nine rebounds from 6-5 freshman Lindsey Jarosinski to defeat Brooks 74-55 at the 25th Annual McDonald’s Shootout on Monday at Willowbrook.

“I think it was a little bit of fatigue,” Brooks coach Reggie Dawson said. “I just think we were defeated before the game started. They read the paper and they think this is the best team in the state, so they laid down. We just got to get over it. We got to find a way to get them to believe in themselves.”

Brooks got 23 points from Akina Wellere and 18 from Amara Graham.

“We weren’t getting back to the corners,” Graham said. “They got shooters in the corners. We could have got back a little better, but we played good overall. I think it was mostly our defense.”

Brooks (12-5) opened the game with a 16-8 run fueled by 3-pointers by Wellere and Graham. The Eagles still led 21-19 with 5:27 remaining in the first half when foul trouble and 3-point shooting by Montini’s Nikki Oppenheimer, Kaylee Bambule and Kerstein took its toll.

Brooks’ 6-2 Camryn Julun, Sydney Atoyebi and Wellere each picked up three fouls in the first half with Julun and Atoyebi spending most of the second quarter on the bench. Montini (19-4) exploited their absence to close the first half on a 17-2 run to take a 36-23 lead at the break.

Bambule, who finished with eight points, was making her first appearance since suffering a deep knee bruise at the Montini Christmas Tournament.

“I really begged to have coach put me in and see if I can play, and it worked out well,” Bambule said. “I think our depth was the difference. We knew going into the game we had to run, we had to push the ball. It was good that we listened to coach and what he had us do.”

Kelsey Bogdan rounded out four players in double figures for Montini with 11 points.

“I think our whole team, we are all so talented that any day can be any of us,” Bambule said. “One day it could be Lea (Kerstein). One day it could be Tiara (Wallace), and I think that’s such a great thing for us.”

Brooks shot just 22 percent from the field and committed 17 turnovers.

“Fatigue was a big factor,” Dawson said. “Fatigue was a big factor. I think we’ll do better the next time we play them because we may have to play them in the state tournament. I wouldn’t mind, I would love to have to play them again.”