2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 3/2/2017 6:30 PM

All-business Montini aiming for another state championship

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  • Montini plays unbeaten Edwardsville on Friday night in a Class 4A girls basketball semifinal.

    Montini plays unbeaten Edwardsville on Friday night in a Class 4A girls basketball semifinal.
    Daily Herald File Photo


The question to Montini coach Jason Nichols was of the warm-and-fuzzy variety, looking for an unofficial team mascot or ritual. Think cute-and-cuddly, made-for-TV stuff.

Nichols didn't have much to offer on the statewide media conference call Tuesday.

"The tradition that we have is the example of everybody before you," Nichols said, later adding, "Our kids are kind of a businesslike team."

The Broncos (32-1) have more business to attend to this weekend in Normal, starting with a Class 4A girls basketball semifinal against Edwardsville (32-0) at 5:30 p.m. Friday (Comcast SportsNet Chicago Plus).

The winner will face either Geneva or Fremd in Saturday night's state championship game, to be played right after the third-place game.

The Broncos have had to earn their way to Normal's Redbird Arena. They survived Downers Grove North, Proviso East, Whitney Young and Homewood-Flossmoor just to get to the semifinals after a strong regular-season schedule.

"Our schedule's been incredible," said Nichols, whose team's only loss came in Kentucky. "It's been the best I think I've ever played.

"This is a gauntlet. Teams have to be mentally tough to win 4A state titles, and I think our schedule has forced us to be mentally tough."

The run of tough competition won't end with Edwardsville. The Tigers are no fluke.

"They're legit," Nichols said. " ... It's going to be a big challenge, there's no doubt about it."

Coach Lori Blade has a veteran team that goes seven deep, led by Southern Illinois University recruits Makenzie Silvey and Criste'on Waters.

The Tigers don't have height in the post to match up with Montini's 6-foot-3 Aaliyah Patty and 6-5 Lindsey Jarosinski, who usually do not take the court at the same time. The Tigers' height is in the backcourt, where they are all close to or at 6 feet. And they are quick.

"We are long and athletic, so to be that in the guard position is unusual," Blade said. "That's been a definite positive for us throughout the year."

Silvey is the Tigers' leading scorer at 15.9 points a game, but they have balance with Rachel Pranger and Kate Martin also averaging in double figures and Waters close to it.

Silvey is the player to watch despite not being the team's best pure athlete, Blade said.

"We go as she goes usually," she said.

Both Silvey and Montini senior guard Kaylee Bambule are first-team all-state picks. Pranger, a 6-foot junior forward, made the second-team.

The Broncos also go seven players deep, missing guards Nikki Oppenheimer and Zoe Zacker.

The December season-ending injuries to Oppenheimer and Zacker robbed the Broncos of depth as well as talent. Oppenheimer will play at Syracuse next season; Zacker is one of the most sought after sophomores in the country.

The teams have four opponents in common: Whitney Young, Rock Island, Oswego East and Benet. If those results are any indication, Friday's game should be very close.

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