Montini tops Bolingbrook to earn return to Normal
If Sam Mitchell is the gas that makes the Montini train run, then Ilysse Pitts is the spark that fires the pistons.
Pitts scored 9 points including two 3-pointers that ignited a 10-0 run early in the fourth quarter, and Mitchell shrugged off a bum ankle to handle the ball against Bolingbrook's unrelenting full-court pressure to power the Broncos to a 43-35 victory Monday in the Class 4A supersectional at Lewis University.
Montini (33-2) will face Edwardsville at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Redbird Arena in Normal in a rematch of last year's semifinal won by the Tigers 37-35.
"This was a huge win," Mitchell said. "They're (Bolingbrook) a great team and I think they deserve to go down there too. It just worked out this way. We played our butts off. We still have a lot to do, of course, but we're going to go down there and give it our all."
Montini might not be vying for its fifth state title in nine years if not for the efforts of its 5-foot-6 junior guard, who had 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and only 2 turnovers in 28 minutes.
"Sam was awesome," Montini coach Jason Nichols said. "On a bum ankle, she was awesome. The kid's so gutsy. We have a ton of superstar power with our seniors, but Sam Mitchell makes this train run. They would all tell you that. She makes it run. She's the gas in this program."
Pitts happily jumped on the Montini train to Redbird.
After Bolingbrook (24-6) used a 9-3 run to get within 25-24 just 29 seconds into the fourth quarter, the slender 5-6 senior buried back-to-back 3-pointers from opposite corners as part of a 10-0 run from which Bolingbrook never recovered.
"I had a really good warmup and I felt confident with my shot," said Pitts, who was 0 for 2 from inside the arc but 3 of 5 from beyond. "I'm a shooter, so I shot the ball. The plan was to shoot the ball when you're open. That's what I had to do. If I was open, I was shooting the ball."
Jarosinski capped the run off a nifty feed from Mitchell. Bolingbrook got within 37-31 on a 3-pointer by Jayden Marable with 3:10 remaining, but Montini made 5 of 6 free throws in the final 2:52 to extend its season.
Danyel Middleton scored 12 points and 6-1 senior Jahari Smith added 9 points and 11 rebounds for Bolingbrook, which was trying to make its first trip downstate since winning its fourth state title in 2011.
"We didn't make shots," said Bolingbrook coach Chris Smith, whose team was just 16 of 50 from the floor, including 2 of 16 from 3-point range. "It's just that simple. We didn't make shots. Overall, we did a good job defensively. It was just the opportunity to finish and make shots we didn't do."
Aaliyah Patty, who picked up two early fouls and sat out much of the first half, added 8 points and 6 rebounds for Montini, which is making its ninth trip to the state finals in the last 11 years.
"There's four unbelievable teams that are going to be there," Nichols said. "It's so elite. It's just unbelievable. I don't care what anybody says, we had the toughest road to get there. Toughest. Not even close. Kenwood, Benet and Bolingbrook. Three really good teams."
And the train just keeps on rolling.