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Class 3A Hinsdale Central supersectional
Who: Montini (33-1) vs. Chicago Phillips (17-11).
When: Monday, 6 p.m., followed by the Class 4A supersectional, Bolingbrook vs. Whitney Young.
Advancement: The winner of the Hinsdale Central supersectional will meet the winner of the Hoffman Estates supersectional (Vernon Hills vs. Burlington Central) in a Class 3A state semifinal Friday, Noon, in Normal.
Outlook: Montini's motivation is clear -- a win here means a return to Redbird Arena and with it the opportunity to try to become Illinois' first girls basketball program to win four straight state championships. "You can't win state unless you win five to get downstate," Montini coach Jason Nichols said. "Game 5 is in front of them. What are they going to do about it?" On paper, this looks like a huge mismatch, like many Montini playoff games before it. Montini has now won nine straight sectionals and its last 25 playoff games -- 23 of those 25 wins by double figures. A win Monday would set a state girls basketball record for the most consecutive playoff wins.
Phillips, on the other hand, is just over a week removed from winning its program's first regional. All five Montini starters stand 5-foot-10 or taller, three of them 6-footers; Phillips has just one player, 5-9 junior Alicia Lesure, taller than 5-7. Ashley Seaton, a 5-foot senior guard, is a good spot-up shooter, 5-7 senior guard Zemoria Jernigan a penetrator and 5-7 senior guard Asia Jones, who scored 12 in a 42-36 sectional final win over Harlan, gets a lot of garbage baskets off the boards.
"They'll play 1-3-1, man-to-man, they can do some things. In a one-game setting they are dangerous," Nichols said. "We have to play the game and play the game hard. If we do I like our chances."
Montini's trademark matchup zone has held its first four playoff opponents to an average 28.5 points. Leading scorer Kateri Stone, averaging 12 a game, missed the last two playoff games with a high ankle sprain, but could be back in the lineup Monday. In her absence freshman Lea Kerstein has picked up the shooting slack, going for 22 against Westinghouse and 12 versus Glenbard South. Nichols also felt Kelly Karlis, Sara Ross and Malayna Johnson played well Thursday, and the defense picked up after somewhat going through the motions against Westinghouse.
"Lea has been great," Nichols said. "When we play with a sense of urgency we're pretty darn good. I would hope Monday there is a sense of urgency."