Downers Grove North left Friday night's Class 4A Oak Lawn girls basketball regional final with a sense of pride.
Montini left with a sense of relief having replaced fear.
Ninth-seeded Downers Grove North came close to knocking off the No. 1-ranked team in Illinois, but Montini (29-1) survived with a 46-39 victory. The Broncos advanced to play Proviso East at 6 p.m. Monday at the Argo sectional semifinals.
"I couldn't be more proud of them, the heart that they put into competing in this game," Trojans coach Stephan Bolt said. "A couple of mistakes down the stretch cost us, a couple of turnovers. But their heart to battle, to keep it a one-possession game right down to the stretch and give us those chances, I mean, I love those kids. It was a great job."
The Broncos have played in 13 consecutive supersectionals, but they almost didn't make it out of the regional this year.
"So, yes, I was scared," said 14-year veteran Montini coach Jason Nichols. "I was. I'm not going to lie. And I told the girls they should have been too."
It looked for much of the game like Montini might be the second state-ranked team to fall in as many days. No. 6 Oswego East lost Thursday.
"We talked about it," said Nichols, whose team defeated Oswego East by 6 points last week. "We referenced Oswego East. We referenced a team coming in with nothing to lose and playing freely. At the end of the day, they're young kids and I don't care how good you are, you can never anticipate how they'll handle pressure. We handled it well in the second half."
The Trojans made it a game by slowing the tempo and taking a page out of the Broncos' book, hitting nine 3-point shots on 17 attempts, led by senior forward Hannah Ilyavi's 5.
"It's emotional. It's a good way to end the season because it's a tough loss, but overall we came out with a good plan and we were able to execute it," Ilyavi said.
The game was back and forth throughout, with the Trojans taking a 9-8 lead at the end of the first quarter on a long 3-pointer by Julia Kramper.
"The first few minutes of the game when we came out and got some stops right away, then we were able to convert offensively, I knew that we were able to continue this throughout the game," said Ilyavi, who scored a game-best 17 points.
A Kramper layup gave the Trojans a 21-17 halftime lead.
"At halftime I wanted it so badly and I was like, I wish the game was over now so we could just win," Ilyavi said.
The mood was much different in the Montini locker room at halftime.
"It was intense," Montini junior center Lindsey Jarosinski said. "We all came together and talked about it, and I think that helped."
Montini took the lead for good when Jarosinski's free throw with 2:32 left in the game made the score 40-39. Her lay-in 50 seconds later made it 42-39, and Broncos sophomore Sam Mitchell coolly sank two free throws with 33.1 seconds to go. Aaliyah Patty blocked a Trojans shot at the other end to stifle the Trojans' last chance.
"We know coming into every game that other teams are going to be coming for us," Jarosinski said. "We just had to be ready. We didn't feel ready in the first half. The second half we woke up."