NORMAL -- All season long Montini's girls basketball team overcame the obstacles.
Friday night at Redbird Arena, the obstacles caught up with the Broncos.
Senior Makenzie Silvey drained a 15-foot shot from the baseline with 20 seconds to play and No. 3 Edwardsville survived a frantic finish to stun the top-ranked Broncos 37-35 in the Class 4A semifinals.
Edwardsville (32-0) will face Geneva on Saturday night for the state championship after Montini (32-2) takes on Fremd for third place. Geneva downed Fremd 34-33 in Friday's second semifinal.
"I'm not disappointed in them," said Montini coach Jason Nichols of his team. "I'm disappointed in the outcome. Nobody wants to lose. But I'm not disappointed with this team. Going through what we've gone through this year, I'm OK with it. I'm not OK with losing, but this team has been through it all."
As it was Friday.
The Broncos, who lost to an Illinois team for the first time this season, bolted out to a 14-2 lead and had an 18-7 advantage after one quarter as Edwardsville, playing at Redbird for the first time since 2012, appeared to have the "Redbird jitters."
"It was the first quarter you don't want, especially against a team like Montini," said Edwardsville coach Lori Blade. "But then we settled down and got back into it."
The Tigers did so by using their size -- four of their starters are 6-foot and the other 5-11 -- to challenge every Montini shot. The Broncos scored only 4 points in the second quarter and went nearly 10 minutes between the second and third quarters without a field goal.
"We got some good looks," Nichols said. "Sometimes it just doesn't fall."
"They were playing me tight and guarding me hard," added Montini senior Kaylee Bambule, who was just 3-of-9 shooting for the night including 1 of 6 from 3-point range. "They were long and it was tough to get good shots against them."
Montini led 20-8 after a Bambule basket with 6:52 left in the second quarter, but Edwardsville went on a 12-0 run over the next five-plus minutes to tie it at 20 after two free throws from junior Rachel Pranger with 1:05 left. Two free throws by senior Claudia Kunzer gave Montini a 22-20 halftime lead and set up a chess match of a second half in which neither team had more than a 4-point lead.
Montini's final lead of the night was 35-34 after Kunzer drove the lane and scooped in a shot with 50 seconds to play.
Blade called time out with 32 seconds to go, and 12 seconds later Silvey got free on the baseline. The Southern Illinois recruit buried the shot that became the game-winner.
"Coach Blade drew it up, (Pranger) set a great screen and I was able to knock down the shot," said Silvey, who along with Pranger and Myriah Haywood led Edwardsville with 9 points.
Montini missed a potential game-winner in the lane with six seconds left and after a scrum for possession and an officials' conference Edwardsville was awarded possession with 2.7 seconds to go. Montini had only committed three team fouls at that point but was called for an intentional foul and Haywood made 1 of 2 free throws with 1.4 seconds left for the final margin.
"They had the last possession and they hit the shot," said Nichols, whose team was plagued by 16 turnovers.
"When two good teams play each other it's ugly basketball sometimes," Nichols continued. "It comes down to the little things and turnovers really hurt us and some foul trouble put us in a tough spot."
Kunzer led the Broncos with 11 points and 6 rebounds, while sophomore Sam Mitchell had 10 points and Bambule added 8.