Montini races past Grayslake Central
Montini at first planned to start with a slow, methodical pace Monday night against Grayslake Central.
During warmups for the Class 3A girls basketball supersectional, the Broncos instead checked down to Plan B, opting to speed up the Rams right from the start.
The result was a 55-33 Montini victory that sends the Broncos to Friday morning's state semifinals in Normal against Simeon.
"Awesome. It's great. I'm so happy to get back downstate this year, it's really unbelievable for us," said Montini guard Sydney Prochaska, one of just two seniors on the roster and the only senior starter.
Setting a quick pace from the start at Elgin Community College, the Broncos (31-4) scored the game's first 7 points and led 10-4 after one quarter. Grayslake Central (30-4) never caught up
"We felt like we could speed their guards up," Montini coach Jason Nichols said. "It would take (6-foot-2 senior Kate) Bullman out of the play a little bit and it did. It worked. And our game plan going in was to kinda like wait a couple of minutes. And I was watching warmups and I said forget it, let's go get them. And it worked out.
"And we actually got out to a slow start offensively. But, yeah, overall a pretty good job. Not bad. Going back downstate with a bunch of young 'uns."
Montini held the Illinois State-bound Bullman to 11 points, nearly half her average.
"They had me scouted," Bullman said. "It was really hard because I know the Montini coach and have talked to him before. His players executed what he asked them to do very well.
"Any time I would catch the ball it was an automatic double-team or triple-team, and it made it really hard since they're tall. Taylor Charles is a legit 6-2, and I couldn't really see around her and I couldn't do a whole lot."
The Broncos pulled away in the second quarter, scoring the first 7 points of the period. By halftime they led 25-10, having forced 13 turnovers.
"They gave us the pressure we thought they'd give us," Grayslake Central coach Steve Ikenn said. "You couple that with the length that they have, and passes that we normally get through are getting deflected.
"You got to give them credit for it. They're aggressive on defense, and they made us uncomfortable on every shot."
The Broncos didn't let up in the second half either. Their lead peaked at 49-23 at 4:55 of the fourth quarter on a Madisyn Saracco free throw.
Sophomore point guard Sophie Sullivan led the Broncos with 13 points, hitting three 3-pointers. She also grabbed 4 steals and dished 3 assists.
"I know the feeling of getting downstate. It takes a lot from everybody on the team, and I knew I had to contribute. So I knew if I was open I had to shoot it," she said.
Nichols predicted a big night for Sullivan, then had second thoughts when she struggled with her shot in the Broncos' walk-through.
"I told Al (Golonka) and Tony (DiCanio), my assistants, Sophie's going to have a huge game. And she did. I just felt like in the last couple of practices she was actually looked good shooting the ball," he said.
Saracco added 9 points off the bench in the fourth quarter, and Charles and Olivia Mezan added 8 each. Nine Broncos scored.
"Here's the scary thing about this team: There's so many little things that we do wrong that we could -- we could be really, really good," Nichols said. "Oh my God, we could be so much better. And they know it. They know it.
"To play against a team like Simeon and then try to beat a Morton, you have to take it to a whole new level. We'll find out if we're really ready for it yet. But guess what. I'll gladly take the experience."
Joe Aguilar contributed to this report.