It takes more than a good half of girls basketball to throw a scare into Montini.
"It's happened a lot," Montini senior Kateri Stone said. "I think because we're seniors now it helps that we've been in this situation before. So it's our responsibility to keep everyone calm and then slowly turn the game around."
Nazareth's good first half at the Class 3A Glenbard South sectional semifinals only served to remind the top-seeded Broncos they can't take anyone for granted. The Broncos' strong second half gave them a 70-44 victory Tuesday night in Glen Ellyn.
"They came out hard and they were excited, and I give a lot of credit to them," Stone said. "They weren't scared of us. A lot of teams are like, Oh, we're playing Montini. But Naz wasn't like that. So the second half we came in, we regrouped, we're like, We're going to do this together, and I think that's what helped."
Seemingly in a blink of an eye, Montini (30-2) blew Nazareth out in the third quarter. Stone's three-point play with 3:40 left in the period gave Montini its first double-digit lead, 35-25. Stone followed with a 3-point shot, freshman Kaylee Bambule hit a 3 and Rainey Kuykendall converted a free throw, and just like that Montini led 42-25 with 2:05 left.
"We defended," Stone said. "I think that was our first priority was to get on the shooters, box out, just not pick up so many fouls because fouls led to momentum changes on their side. Once we had the defense down it transitioned into offense."
Stone's 3-pointer just before the third-quarter buzzer gave Montini a 47-27 lead.
"That's why they play the games," Montini coach Jason Nichols said. "If they said the favorite wins, you'd just tell us to move on because we're the favorite. Give Naz credit. We picked up a lot of fouls and it changed how we (played) and we couldn't press and dictate tempo or trap."
Nazareth (18-12) took a 15-14 lead in the second quarter, but Stone took the lead back for Montini with another 3. The Broncos led 23-20 at halftime.
Senior Sara Ross finished with 13 points, Stone scored 12, Claire Jakaitis came off the bench to score 11 and Bambule had 10.
"I thought Claire Jakaitis stepped up huge," Nichols said. "Getting the ball inside to her and establishing kind of loosened things up on the perimeter. And then I thought Kaylee was great off the bench. And then Claudia (Kunzer) gave us a bunch of offensive rebounds."
Montini meets Marshall at 7 p.m. Thursday in the sectional final.
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