Rob Kroehnke called Friday afternoon's 48-43 victory the best regular-season triumph in his 13 seasons as Wheaton Warrenville South's girls basketball coach.
"You stack up against Montini, you stack up well against anybody," Kroehnke said. "Hopefully, we can carry this over and keep it going."
Considering second-ranked Montini's resume -- its third-place finish last year in Class 3A broke the Broncos' three-year state championship run -- the third-ranked Tigers celebrated their win at the Schaumburg Thanksgiving Tournament.
"This is what we want to do," Kroehnke said. "We want to play the best teams, and they're a really good team. When you get an opportunity to play them, you'd better show up and you'd better be ready to play. I told the girls, if you play defense you'll have a shot. If you don't play defense, they're too good. And we played defense today."
"You've got to give Wheaton Warrenville South a lot of credit," Montini coach Jason Nichols said. "They played with a lot of energy. Our girls have to realize that every time we step on the floor that people do not like us. They want to beat our brains in. It's no different than when the Miami Heat play, the Denver Broncos play and when the Yankees take the field. You've got to accept that, and if you can't accept that and compete on every play, you're going to lose games like this."
The first quarter saw five lead changes and one tie, but there was just one lead change in the final three quarters, when Meghan Waldron hit a 3-pointer with 2:41 left in the second quarter, giving the Tigers a 21-19 lead. Montini cut the lead to 25-23 at halftime, 36-33 after three quarters, but it never did catch the Tigers (4-1).
Melinda Franke scored all 6 of her points to open the fourth quarter, the final basket coming when Waldron zipped a pass to her under the basket for a lay-in. With 4:26 to play, the 42-33 lead was the Tigers' biggest of the game.
"I went down low and I just sneaked behind the zone and Meghan found me, and I got some offensive rebounds as well, so that helped," Franke said.
Montini (4-1) stormed back, scoring the next 8 points. But a Waldron basket and 4-of-5 free-throw shooting kept the Tigers in front.
"They were intense, because Montini was up on us, pressuring us," Franke said of the game's final minutes. "We stayed under control and pulled it out."
The Tigers won without playing their best. They were just 1 of 7 at the free-throw line the first three quarters, and the Broncos' aggressive full-court press forced 8 fourth-quarter turnovers, 22 for the game.
"It was incredible," Franke said. "We didn't play exactly how we wanted, but we had a real good game, I think. We played really tough defensively, and we executed really well on the offense even though we had a lot of turnovers. It's a great win."
"We tried to give it away," Kroehnke said. "... (The Tigers) hung in there and they just kept battling."
Waldron led the Tigers with 19 points, 11 rebounds and 6 steals. Maggie Dansdill added 11 points and 4 rebounds. Both were named to the all-tournament team.
Freshman guard Kaylee Bambule led Montini with 10 points, hitting two 3-pointers. Another to tie with six seconds left went in and out.
"Kaylee's a really good player," Nichols said. "She's making the most of her opportunity, so she's going to continue to get an opportunity."
Montini senior Kateri Stone was named tournament MVP Kelly Karlis was named all-tournament.
"I've been waiting a long time for a win like this," Kroehnke said. "This is a big win. A big, big win."
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