A big win in a packed gym, yeah, Kateri Stone had a lot of fun.
"Oh my gosh," Stone exclaimed after the Broncos came from behind to beat Rolling Meadows 66-63 in the Montini Christmas Tournament championship game Saturday night. "Did you see how many people were out here? I live for this. This is awesome. This was great."
Across the gym Mustangs senior Alexis Glasgow had slightly different emotions.
"This loss definitely (hurts), a lot more than Whitney Young," Glasgow said of the Mustangs' only other defeat this season. "That's why we came here, to play against top-caliber teams, and we feel that we showed who we are and showcased ourselves very well overall."
It was a game befitting a tournament championship, and Stone, Glasgow and their teammates rose to the challenge. Glasgow scored a game-best 26 points, hitting four 3-pointers, some of them seemingly from the last row of the bleachers.
"She was great," Rolling Meadows coach Ryan Kirkorsky said. "She does that all the time. When it's a big stage and we need her, every time we need her to do that, she's done it. So it doesn't surprise me. That's who she is."
But Stone almost matched Glasgow, scoring 23 points and also hitting four 3s.
"Kateri in the second half was unbelievable because she got to the basket," Broncos coach Jason Nichols said.
"That kid shot lights-out," Kirkorsky said of Stone. "They ran a lot of double staggers for her and we were trying to chase her all over the place. Two great teams and big shots back and forth."
Rolling Meadows (14-2) led most of the game, topping off at 11 points in the third quarter. But Montini came storming back, tying the game at 44 with 1:06 left in the third quarter when Sara Ross found Stone for a 3-pointer from the top of the key. It was the first time Montini had drawn even since 8-8.
"I told the kids in the huddle when we were down, I think, 11, 'This is like Wheaton South all over. You have no mojo, you have no energy. I'm not going to hoot and holler about it. I'll hoot and holler when we do something right. You figure it out. We have two juniors and three seniors,' Nichols said, referring to the 15-1 Broncos' only loss this season. "And they stepped up. They hit a couple shots, got a couple stops and the momentum swung and it became a ballgame like that."
"We've been in this situation so many times," Stone added. "Ever since our sophomore year we've been in this situation. I think because we're seniors now we're a lot more mature."
Tournament MVP Jackie Kemph gave the Mustangs their final lead at 63-62 with a pair of free throws with 2:01 left in the game, finishing with 20 points, but a minute later Ross stepped up and intercepted a pass and drove for a layup to give the Broncos the lead for good.
"That was so clutch," Stone said.
The Mustangs never could come up with another basket.
"There were a lot of opportunities to close out the game, which we didn't do and they did, so you've got to credit them for doing that," Kirkorsky said. "We're not at the point of learning experiences right now. We want to close out big games. We didn't do it tonight and Montini did, so the credit goes to them."
Even Nichols, frequently a critic of his teams, had to admit he was impressed.
"What a great team win," Nichols said. "You beat Fremd, Marian Catholic and Rolling Meadows, come on. Come on. We beat the No. 1 contender, the dark horse and the predicted champion."
By the Rolling Meadows locker room, Glasgow was ready for a rematch.
"I wish we could have that game back," she said, "but it is what it is."
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