Rockford Lutheran ends Montini's season
Trailing by five heading into the final eight minutes of regulation, Rockford Lutheran just didn't need to panic.
And it didn't.
A 13-4 run -- driven primarily by a pair of layups from Vontez Dent and 2 3-pointers from Blake Broege -- sprung the Crusaders forward to a 74-64 victory over Montini in the Class 2A Marengo sectional semifinal on Wednesday.
"All I can say is this group is a bunch of winners," Crusaders coach Tom Guse said. "They were down five going into the fourth and there was zero panic. We've been playing good teams all year and that's why we do it, to be prepared for these types of moments. We talked late in the game -- 'You've got to stay calm and make the plays.' Don't do anything different than we had all year and [I'm] really proud of their effort."
Rockford Lutheran (27-6) will face Rockford Christian in the sectional final on Friday at 7 p.m. The last time Lutheran qualified for the state tournament was in 2015, when the Crusaders took fourth in Class 3A.
Broege referred back to a regular-season double-overtime contest against Timothy Christian as part of his team's preparation for the sectional semifinal.
"We've been working since November, so we knew what needed to be done," said Broege, who finished with 17 points and 3 rebounds. "And, just made some big shots that we've been practicing all year."
"Yeah, we went into double overtime with a good team, Timothy Christian, it's one of those [things] where those types of games get you ready for this. That's why we put together the schedule we put together earlier in the year. We played a lot of 3A and 4A schools so we're ready," Guse said.
Dent, who had 14 points and 8 rebounds, admitted he was rushing a little bit, but got reminders from teammates to calm down.
"I got open looks because everybody had faith in me," Dent said. "They weren't selfish; everybody shares the ball."
Montini led 41-37 at the half, but Lutheran was quickly able to storm into a brief lead before the teams tied at 47-47 with three minutes left in the third quarter.
Montini junior Emory Marshall, who scored 21 points, made a layup to cut it to 68-60 with 1:36 left in the fourth quarter, but the Crusaders were able to hit free throws down the stretch to clinch the victory.
Estevan Moreno added 16 points and 9 rebounds for Montini (13-18), while Andrew Stokes had 13 points and 9 rebounds. The Broncos last week won the program's first regional title since 1983.
"That locker room is really hard because I had five seniors that all really cared," Broncos coach Adam DeMong said. "And they really gave everything they had. A lot of the time wearing masks and worrying about illness and things like that. Those guys gave me everything and I think what we did this year for Montini that hadn't been done in a while was because they gave me their all for two tough years and I'm forever grateful to our seniors."