Montini bounces back against Bogan, claims third in 3A

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NORMAL, Ill. – Montini’s Kelsey Bogdan and Rainey Kuykendall were disappointed with Friday’s state semifinal loss to downstate Morton. But the two seniors did not want to be the only Broncos to end their careers with a loss during Montini’s run of seven state trophies in eight years.

“This game meant a lot to me, and a lot to Rainey, too,” Bogdan said. “Just to finish our careers with a win. I think our team understood that we wanted to win this game and everyone came out and got it done. It feels like I’ve played here forever. It will be weird not being on Montini anymore.”

Bogdan and Kuykendall wlll leave Montini knowing the program is in good hands after sophomore Kaylee Bambule scored 17 points on 5 of 10 shooting from three-point range and sophomore Nikki Oppenheimer added 11 points to lead the Broncos to a 63-40 win over Bogan in the 3A third-place game at Redbird Arena.

Kuykendall added seven points and a team-high 10 rebounds and Bogdan opened the scoring with a three-pointer from the top of the key for Montini (31-6), which wiped out a 24-21 second-quarter deficit with a 21-3 run over a 7:18 span of the second and third quarters.

“This game says a lot about our seniors,” Nichols said. “They had a [heck of a] career. They were kind of under the shadow of [Kateri] Stone, [Sara] Ross and [Kelly] Karlis. But the whole time they were here they were state champs twice and finished third.

“It was kind of nice for them to be on their own as seniors and say, ‘Hey, we’re not bad either.’ They got us to a semifinal and we were one game away from a championship game. That says a lot. We are a good team, a very nice team, and these kids were a part of it.”

UIC-bound Brittany Byrd had 25 points on 3 of 6 shooting from the three-point line and Jamee Denman added seven points and 10 rebounds for Bogan (22-11), which was making its first trip to the state semifinals.

“We’re elated like it was a first-place trophy because it feels good to be here,” Bogan coach Gary Bell said. “Before we left Bogan, they had the kids come down from class when we were walking down the main hallway. It was touching watching all those kids support us. That was something pretty historic.

“This team set a bar because we want to come back next year. It was a great experience. I’m very proud of my girls. They played to the end. But the biggest thing I’m proud of is that all five of my seniors have a place to go next year. They’re all going to college in the fall.”

One of the five Bogan seniors is Denman, who is headed to the University of Texas-Pan American.

“This biggest thing for me is that we made it here and we competed,” she said. “We never laid back. I’m proud of my team for that. We never stopped competing. No matter what the score was, we never stopped competing.”

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