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Montini not taking repeat for granted
 

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Montini not taking repeat for granted
  • The Montini girls basketball team is gearing up for a run at a second straight Class 3A state championship. Regional play begins this week.

    Purchase Photo | The Montini girls basketball team is gearing up for a run at a second straight Class 3A state championship. Regional play begins this week. Bev Horne | Staff Photographer

 

Don't tell Montini coach Jason Nichols that another state championship is a foregone conclusion.

"Tom Brady and the Patriots -- nobody was going to beat them three years ago and the Giants did in the Super Bowl," Nichols said. "It's basketball. You don't shoot the ball well, you lack energy and it can end in a moment's notice."

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Still it's easy to see why Montini (29-1) is the odds-on favorite to repeat in Class 3A. Regional play starts in 3A and 4A this week.

Start with the threesome of Notre Dame-bound Whitney Holloway, North Carolina recruit Whitney Adams and Wisconsin-Milwaukee recruit Kiki Wilson. Kasey Reaber and Tianna Brown round out a formidable, experienced starting five.

Montini's 29 wins have come by an average margin of victory of over 35 points. Seven were over ranked teams in Illinois.

But this is the time of year Nichols and Co. have waited for.

"A lot of things have come easy for us outside the Bolingbrook game," he said of the Broncos' sole loss, "and it's hard to keep kids focused over a four-month season. I'm constantly riding them, and the reason why is I don't want them to be vulnerable. We have to have the right mindset every single game. If we do that we'll be tough to beat."

Montini's toughest game on the road to Redbird Arena could come in the regional final.

Glenbard South (23-3) set a school record for wins this week and has the area's leading scorer in 6-foot-4 senior Nevena Markovic. The Raiders also welcomed back their second-leading scorer, junior Patrice Hicks, from suspension this past week.

"She brings another dimension to the team that we have been without," Raiders coach Julie Fonda said. "We are a deeper team now than we were a few days ago, and that will make us more confident."

Glenbard South must get by a potentially tough first-round game with regional host St. Francis to get to Montini.

"You have to challenge them from the outside and pray they have a bad shooting night," Fonda said of Montini. "We'll see. Obviously, anybody is beatable, but you have to limit their opportunities."

Equally imposing favorites headline the area's 4A sectionals.

At the York sectional the top four seeds -- Fenwick, Bartlett, Trinity and Proviso East -- have a combined 10 losses between them. No sectional boasts a tougher lead group.

"There's probably a better way to do it than have those four in the same sectional," Wheaton North coach Dave Eaton said, "and it's not fair to the kids. But it's the situation we got and we'll go after it."

No. 5 sectional seed Wheaton North (17-8) and Bradley-bound Fantasia Vine could meet regional host and No. 12 Glenbard West (13-13) in a regional semifinal. Glenbard West beat Wheaton North in overtime in last year's regional. A Falcons win and they likely get Proviso East and Illinois recruit Ivory Crawford, who scored a personal-high 29 points in a 61-44 win over Wheaton North at the McDonald's Shootout.

"Our kids remember that Glenbard West game last year, and it should make for another good game," Eaton said. "Proviso East, we played them before and didn't play real well. There's a lot riding on these two games."

Another interesting regional rematch from last year shapes up at the Trinity regional, where No. 6 seed West Chicago (16-10) draws No. 11 York (18-11) in a Tuesday semifinal. The Dukes and Mary Colon are red-hot, 8-1 over their last nine games and just won a share of their first West Suburban Silver conference title since 1994 by rallying from 16 down at Glenbard West.

At the 4A Romeoville sectional there is no disputing Bolingbrook (20-2) is the overwhelming favorite. The two-time defending 4A champion has won six straight sectionals and hasn't lost to an Illinois team since the 2008 state championship game. Waubonsie Valley (22-4), who lost to Bolingbrook in last year's sectional final, is the No. 2 seed.

But regional matchups within the sectional are intriguing.

No. 3 sectional seed Benet (21-6), led by Sidney Prasse and Danielle Canulli, has lost just once since Christmas against a rugged schedule. The Redwings could draw regional host Naperville North (11-15) in one semifinal. The Huskies have knocked off Naperville Central and West Chicago over the last three weeks.

A Benet win likely puts the Redwings in a regional final with DuPage Valley Conference co-champion Wheaton Warrenville South (21-6). The Tigers are 14-1 since a 45-43 loss to Benet on Dec. 18.

At the East Aurora regional, No. 4 sectional seed Naperville Central (22-8) also comes in playing its best basketball. The DVC co-champion Redhawks are 12-1 over their last 13 games, led by the outstanding duo of Emma Ondik and Emma Donahue and an improving supporting cast.

The Redhawks could meet No. 5 seed Neuqua Valley (19-7), whom Naperville Central beat 45-40 on Jan. 11, in Friday's regional final.

"It's Game 7 of the World Series from every game out now," Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum said. "We just hope to play well."

Nussbaum is three wins away from career win No. 500.

Yes, first crack at 500 could come against Bolingbrook in a sectional semifinal.

"As far as playing Bolingbrook goes, you can't beat them if you don't play them," Nussbaum said. "They're extremely talented. I'm sure whoever plays them will give them their best shot."

By the numbers

6 -- The number of consecutive sectional titles held by Bolingbrook and Montini, a state record

500 -- Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum is three wins away from 500 career wins

35.2 -- Montini's average margin of victory this season.

10 -- The combined number of losses for Fenwick, Bartlett, Trinity and Proviso East (top 4 seeds at York sectional)

2004 -- The last year DuPage County had a repeat girls basketball state champion (Naperville Central) and the last time Bolingbrook lost in a sectional game (to Benet).

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