Montini had a win-win situation Tuesday at Benet -- even if it lost.
After a 6-1 start to its boys basketball season, no one still would have expected the Broncos to beat a Redwings squad that has averaged nearly 27 wins the last six seasons, with two Class 4A runner-up finishes in the past three years.
"We took it as we had nothing to lose," said Montini junior forward Jayston Williams.
For a bit it seemed Montini might pull it off. Then Benet (7-0) turned up the defense, rebounding and shooting to win the nonconference contest 71-55 in Lisle.
"Our defense started slow, but after that first quarter we started to pick it up," said Redwings senior guard Matt Teglia, who scored 9 points with 7 of Benet's whopping 42 rebounds. "We started to play with a little more energy as a team and once we started to get more stops together our offense started clicking more toward the second quarter and on from there."
Williams scored 12 of his team-high 18 points in a first quarter Montini (6-2) led 17-10. Ray J Dennis canned a 3 for a 23-12 Broncos lead early in the second.
"It shows that we can hang with anyone, really," Williams said. "This is the top team in the DuPage area, or the Daily Herald area, and we hung with them. Personally, I think we made them a little nervous going into halftime."
Benet coach Gene Heidkamp noted his respect for Montini's talent, which forced the Redwings to turn it up a notch.
Getting at least 4 second-quarter points from all five starters -- Teglia, Justin Enochs, Liam Lyman, freshman center Colin Crothers and Jack Nolan, who scored a game-high 24 points -- Benet rallied to lead 35-27 at the half. Putback baskets by Teglia, Nolan and Crothers helped end the half on an 18-2 run.
Dennis and Mychael Hyland paced a 12-rebound first quarter for Montini, but Benet won that battle 35-6 the rest of the way.
"They've got multiple scorers on the floor, they play a fun style of basketball so it's very scary to play against, but I thought we did a little bit better job after the first quarter of getting some stops," Heidkamp said.
Benet opened the third quarter with a Lyman layup off a backscreen and Enochs lob pass, a Lyman free throw and a Nolan 3 to go up 41-27. Montini's Anthony Thompson led a flurry to get within 44-38 with 4:38 left in the third quarter, but Benet scored the next 8 points and held at least a 10-point lead thereafter.
The main part of Montini's win-win scenario was facing a state-caliber opponent.
"The only way you're going to get better is if you play against teams like this," said Montini coach Daryl Thomas, "and we need to do this more often if we're going to compete at the level that I want us to be at, where I know we can get to. We did some really, really good things in this game."