Montini gets it done against Mother McAuley
Two types of shots defined Montini's girls basketball GCAC win Thursday night: the 3-pointer and the free throw.
Fortunately for the Broncos, the latter was 5 feet closer to the rim.
After going 2 of 21 overall from beyond the arc, Montini made 8 of 9 free throws in the fourth quarter to grind out a 40-31 win over Mother McAuley in Lombard.
"We made our free throws and that was the positive of the game today," said Sophie Sullivan, a sophomore guard for Montini who later added, "It says that even when one part of our game isn't going good, we can focus in on another part to help us win the game."
Sullivan, who finished with 7 points and 4 steals, had one of the biggest buckets of the night when she converted a lay-in after a steal to give her team a 30-27 lead in the fourth quarter.
More importantly, Sullivan's basket ended a 10-minute scoring drought for Montini, which didn't score at all in the third quarter.
During the stretch the Mighty Macs crawled back to within 28-27.
"I don't know if we were aware how long that we didn't score, but we felt we needed something to boost us up because we were in a scoring slump," Sullivan said. "So I think that bucket did help and it helped with all our free throws."
Sullivan added a pair of free throws in the fourth, while fellow sophomores Angelina Giordano and Taylor Charles converted four and two free throws, respectively.
Mother McAuley fought until the end, especially on the defensive side, where it only allowed Montini 13 shots in the second half.
But on the offensive end, the Mighty Macs had trouble eluding the length of the Broncos, who had 4 steals and a block in the final quarter.
"I thought we did a great job defensively and that was the game plan for us, just to stay solid," McAuley coach Keisha Newell said. "We get a couple more shots to fall and get a couple more defensive rebounds ... this game could have gone either way."
The Mighty Macs' pressure defense and press ruffled the Broncos early, but the hosts got a first-quarter spark off the bench from junior Taris Thornton, whose 6 early points helped Montini to a 15-9 lead after the first.
The next quarter belonged to Montini standout Tatiana Thomas, who tallied 8 points, 5 rebounds and a steal in the second period as the Broncos took a 28-20 lead into halftime.
The individual efforts, however, merely masked teamwide struggles, Montini coach Jason Nichols said.
"I'm really disappointed," Nichols added. "We were not very efficient in the first half. I thought we could have had a big lead."
It was more of the same for Montini out of the locker room, as McAuley held the Broncos scoreless in the third.
The Mighty Macs, though, only managed 5 points, and Nichols considered his team lucky that McAuley was playing slow.
"I thought that McAuley taking the air out of the ball and passing so much. And not looking to attack, contributed to their low scoring," he said. "Maybe that's our zone, too. It's hard to attack our zone."
The Broncos clinched the game in the fourth with their sharp free-throwing shooting to gain their 20th win on the season.
But, Nichols said, efforts like Thursday night's won't always produce victories, especially in the postseason.
Montini -- which played five sophomores, a junior and a senior in its rotation -- will look to regroup before it hosts Rolling Meadows on Monday and visits Loyola Academy next Thursday.
"We didn't stay mentally sharp in that game," he said. "Maybe it's youth, but we have to be better than that. We have to be better than that if we want to make a run in the state playoffs. Cuz for five straight games to get down state you have to be mentally tough."
Thomas had a team-high 11 points, while Thornton added 9. Charles contributed 6 rebounds and 5 blocks.
The Mighty Macs were led by Isabella Finnegan with 12 points and 9 rebounds, Jenna Badali with 9 points, and Janie Ternes with 8 points.