Montini finished the first half of its schedule Friday night with a convincing 59-43 victory against state-ranked Benet to win the Montini Christmas Tournament championship and remain undefeated.
The celebration was minimal.
"I'm really proud of where I'm at," said Montini coach Jason Nichols, usually his team's toughest critic. "I really am. But, as I just told them, it doesn't matter. Last year the state champion in Class 4A (Benet) didn't win our tournament. So it doesn't mean anything. It doesn't mean anything if you don't continue to get better and get downstate."
"It's a big win, but we've got to move forward and keep playing," Montini junior guard Illysse Pitts added. "We want to go downstate, so that's what we're trying to focus on right now. Keep playing, keep winning."
Benet (16-2) also kept the result in perspective. The Redwings know the joy of winning the last two state titles. Their only other loss this season is to Rock Island, another of the top-ranked teams in Illinois.
"We've lost games here and won the state championship," Benet coach Joe Kilbride said. "And I really felt like three of our four games here (against Fremd, Rolling Meadows and Montini) could have been a supersectional or state semi."
The Broncos (16-0) won despite hitting only three 3-pointers, well below their average. They played without injured guards Nikki Oppenheimer and Zoe Zacker, with Zacker out for the season.
"It means we were getting to the basket, and they were taking away the 3 so we had to do something else to score the ball," Pitts said.
"That's what made me most proud is we found a way," Nichols said. "I was very angry about that early because we had them at six team fouls and we weren't attacking them, we weren't getting it in to the posts who were dominating their post players. But we found a way in the second half. Our post players did a good job."
Aaliyah Patty, a 6-foot-3 junior, had 14 points and 8 rebounds, and 6-5 classmate Lindsey Jarosinski scored 11.
Defending the 3-pointer was a focus for Benet.
"We did a really good job defensively keeping them off the arc, 3 for 11 in our book which is kind of what we're aiming for," Kilbride said. "That was a huge emphasis. Katie (Jaseckas) and Lauren (Stack) getting in foul trouble in the first half really hurt because without those two we have a really hard time matching up to their bigs. Especially the way we were emphasizing trying to guard the arc."
Pitts added 14 points, including a 3 that gave the Broncos an insurmountable 52-40 lead with 2:43 to go.
"She has that. She's slowly starting to mature into a nice player," Nichols said. "...But the steps that she's taken from sophomore to junior year and she's contributing on a team that's pretty good. So, yeah, there's a lot of positive there."
Point guard Tsimba Malonga led Benet with 15 points, Kendal Schramek had 13, Stack 10 and Brooke Schramek 5, but they were the only Redwings to score.
"Offensively, we need to do a little bit better job," said Kilbride, whose team made eight 3-pointers. "We were too perimeter. We need to find a little more inside out."
Follow Orrin on Twitter @Orrin_Schwarz