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Broncos fever. They're catching it.
Perhaps not since the Ryan Neill era has the Montini student section shown up as big and as loud as they did for Friday night's boys basketball game in Lombard.
With the Immaculate Conception Knights in town and the early Suburban Christian Conference Gold Division lead on the line, the fans in their zany tropical attire were rewarded with a 58-55 Montini victory.
"We had to use hand signals, we usually never had to use hand signals. It's different now. Especially a close game like this, this is maybe the most fun I've ever had," said senior guard Sean Nash, who scored 16 points and made four crucial 3-pointers.
After six ties and nine lead changes, Montini (7-1, 3-0) wrested the lead for good on a pair of Brian Orr free throws with 1:18 left to play, fouling out the Knights' Demetrius Carr in the process.
IC (6-3, 2-1) clung within a point until Montini's Logan Goss made 2 free throws with 11.8 seconds left. The Knights missed a pair of 3-point tries at the wire.
"It feels really good for these kids," said Broncos coach Brian Opoka, who lacked 6-foot-3, 220-pound Matt Brachmann, out indefinitely with mononucleosis. "It's been four years since we beat them. It's certainly nice to get that extra win in the conference and be 3-0."
It looked plausible after IC shot 1-of-14 in the first quarter, allowing Montini a 12-5 head start. While the main draw was the mano-a-mano battle between Carr and Montini's Simmie Cobbs — they scored 9 and 18 points, respectively — IC freshman Rhashaun Epting honed his high-arching shot for 12 of a team-high 17 points in the second quarter, for a 28-24 Knights halftime lead.
Cobbs, who had a 4-point first half, said: "I was personally letting mistakes get to myself and I saw it was affecting my team. I told them in the huddle that we're going to change this, and let's go."
IC's Clark Brinkman, who scored 14 points all in the second half, didn't let Montini go too far. His 2 free throws had the Knights up 42-40 after three quarters, and he converted Anthony Taylor's transition pass for a 52-49 lead with 3:28 left to play.
Cobbs got fouled making a shot and hit the free throw, part of the Broncos' 21-of-36 foul shooting. A Carr free throw — the Knights were 15 of 26 — created the last tie at 53-53 with 1:46 left.
Moments before Montini's fans stormed the court.
"This is probably the best I've seen (Montini) in a long time," said IC coach T.J. Tyrrell. "I played in 1997 at IC and this is my 11th year coaching. This is definitely their best team."