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Article updated: 3/3/2012 12:59 AM
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Baby Broncos grow up, withstand Hillcrest's fury
 

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Baby Broncos grow up, withstand Hillcrest's fury
  • Montini's Jasmine Lumpkin celebrate the Broncos' comeback victory Friday afternoon.

    Purchase Photo | Montini's Jasmine Lumpkin celebrate the Broncos' comeback victory Friday afternoon. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 

It's just one game, and technically Montini's young kids only aged 90 minutes Friday afternoon.

But, boy, did they ever grow up.

A year ago sophomores Kateri Stone, Sara Ross, Jasmine Lumpkin and Kelly Karlis were cheering Montini's seniors on the sidelines at Redbird Arena. Freshman Kelsey Bogdan? She was somewhere doing what eighth-graders do weekend afternoons.

They were thrown into the fire Friday, matched with a senior-laden Hillcrest team burning to avenge two championship-game losses.

"I could tell that they had a lot of anger toward us, that they wanted revenge," Stone said. "They definitely took it out on us early."

Montini's kids played like kids at the outset. The pressure got to them. They turned it over 19 times in the first half. Shots that normally fall for shooters like Stone didn't.

Stone, who hit a team-high 72 3-pointers leading into Friday, bricked her first 12.

She came back to hit a pair of 3s to help lead a comeback from down 9 with four minutes left. Then she was money at the free-throw line, making all 4 in the final 15 seconds.

"Kateri, I don't know if she got lost on the way to the arena," Montini coach Jason Nichols said, "but she sure showed up in the fourth quarter. That's all that matters."

Montini's comeback appeared to hit a bump in the road with 2:11 left when steady junior Nikia Edom -- the team's best shooter -- fouled out.

In came Bogdan, who earlier had a pair of breakaway layups to cut Montini's deficit within single digits.

The wiry freshman has loads of potential but naturally can be jittery at times playing varsity basketball in front of the demanding eyes of Nichols. Pressure like Hillcrest's didn't help early.

But there she was, burying just her third 3 of the year seconds after Edom fouled out to pull Montini within 3.

"Kelsey really struggled early," Nichols said, "but she got back in, mellowed out and did a great job."

It's only a few short steps from the sidelines to center court, but, oh, what a difference a year makes for Montini's young kids. It's their time.

"It's exciting," Lumpkin said, "to actually be on the court and to be a part of it."

Montini's championship-game wins the last two years speak for themselves.

But this? This was special. Unexpected. And, with a stirring comeback, wholly emotional. Nichols was overcome, turning to the bleachers behind the bench and shaking both fists to celebrate. Montini's kids marched over to their fans, serenaded with chants of "three-peat."

Hillcrest's pressure, and the moment, seemed to overwhelm Montini's kids early. But they didn't wilt, and by the end the Broncos were the ones who looked like the veteran team.

Nichols' kids, to borrow an old White Sox slogan, can play.

"At the beginning of the game, we were kind of nervous," Stone said, "but after a while we just said to each other, 'All right guys, settle down.' We calmed down towards the end and made the plays when we needed to."

jwelge@dailyherald.com

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