White, Montini shine at 32nd Kipp Hoopsfest

 
 
Updated 1/15/2022 6:48 PM

Montini point guard Sawyer White just completed a memorable week.

It began last Sunday when the 5-foot-8 senior committed to Illinois Wesleyan, where she will play both basketball and soccer.

 

It ended Saturday afternoon, when White turned in a virtuoso performance at the first day of the 32nd Coach Kipp Hoopsfest.

White tallied a career-high 20 points and also had six rebounds, three assists, two steals and a block to lead the host Broncos to an impressive 61-42 victory over Oak Forest.

"I was just super excited to be able to come play at home again," White said. "There's not many games left at home, so it's really nice to be able to play in front of my parents."

White didn't wait long to put on a show for the home crowd. She sank a 3-pointer on Montini's first possession and later fired a crisp entry pass to Samanth Mogilinski for an inside basket.

White then scored seven more points during a 15-2 run, capping the surge with a coast-to-coast layup that gave the Broncos (14-6) a 22-9 lead after the first quarter.

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But her most memorable play came at the end of the first half. After Oak Forest's Olivia Baxa split a pair of free throws with 2.4 seconds remaining, White got the ball and banked in a 3-pointer from just beyond half-court, putting Montini up 36-16 at intermission.

It was the first time White, who finished the first half with 16 points, could remember draining a buzzer-beater from that distance.

"I just threw it up there," White said. "I was hoping it went in."

During her first two years of high school, White was just hoping to get some varsity playing time on a squad filled with future Division I players. As a sophomore, she was a reserve on Montini's Class 3A third-place team.

When starter Sophie Sullivan transferred to Willowbrook after that season, White finally got her chance, though her junior season was limited to 15 games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"I thought she started playing well at the end of last season," Montini coach Shannon Spanos said. "She had an opportunity and she has taken that opportunity and is getting better and better every day.

"When she's a threat offensively, she's hard to stop. She elevates so well when she gets to the basket and that opens things up for the rest of the team."

Oak Forest (12-7) didn't have an answer for White at either end of the floor. The Bengals were unable to stop White's from attacking the basket, or prevent her from finding open teammates.

Junior forward Shannon Blacher, who scored 12 points on 6 of 8 shooting, was a frequent recipient of White's passes.

"Playing with Sawyer is really great because she handles the ball under pressure and she makes great passes," Blacher said. "She's also really good at reading the defense, so she always makes good plays with the ball. I can always trust her."

The Broncos committed only seven turnovers while harassing the Bengals into a 12 for 43 shooting performance. White was a pest in the passing lanes, often deflecting passes and even rushing out to block a 3-point attempt out of bounds.

"She's always been good at getting steals and deflections," Blacher said. "That's like her specialty."

White had to wait a while to gain her leading role, but she's enjoying every minute of it.

"I love leading my team," White said. "I really do love my team and I think it's really special that coach trusts me enough to play point guard.

"It's great to be able to be there for the girls and just really make the program what it is."

White plays mostly forward for the soccer team and said her roles are similar in both sports. Playing both in college is an ambitious goal, but she's not ready to play only one.

"I love both sports and I didn't really feel like I could just give one up to play another," White said. "With soccer I love the freedom to create and really help my teammates to score.

"It's kind of the same for basketball. I love to assist my teammates and help on the defensive side."

That teamwork helped the Broncos contain Oak Forest star Janae Kent, a 6-1 forward who is considered one of the top juniors in the state. Kent scored a game-high 19 points, but 17 of them came in the second half after the game was out of reach.

"She's a really good player and just one person can't stop her," White said. "So us helping over and working as a team stopped her."

Whether on the soccer field or the basketball court, White has proved hard to stop. Spanos doesn't see that changing any time soon.

"(Being able to play two sports in college) says a lot and I think it helps her," Spanos said. "She sees the court so well and I think it is because of her soccer background.

"This is a good time for her to peak, going into February."

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