Montini takes down Providence Catholic in Class 3A sectional championship
Bench production is often an underrated facet of basketball.
But not Thursday night for Montini.
Thanks to a combined nine points and nine rebounds off the bench from senior Maren Hoovel and sophomores Lily Spanos and Audrey Kinney, the Broncos stormed past Providence Catholic 53-38 in the Class 3A Glenbard South Sectional final.
Montini will face Deerfield on Monday in the Dundee-Crown supersectional.
Like the rest of their teammates, the three seemed to enjoy warmups, laughing and shooting. But when the game began, they were all business.
Spanos' 3-pointer from the left arc helped pace an 11-2 run early in the second quarter. With 47 seconds left in the period, she hit a layup that gave the Broncos a 28-16 lead they would never relinquish.
But wait -- there's more. Hoovel grabbed five rebounds, while Kinney chipped in five points and two boards to help Montini improve to 27-7.
"It's a big responsibility, because everyone is expecting the starters to do all the work and do all the heavy stuff, so we have to come in for them and put in the work," Hoovel said.
Of course, the starters were as tough as nails. Senior forward Shannon Bleacher led all scorers with 18 points, 12 in the second half, and junior Alyssa Epps added 11.
"I'd say we were pretty confident," Spanos said. "We wanted to let all our nerves out."
"We acted pretty loose, but I know we were all pretty nervous, but we knew if we just went in with confidence, there would be a good outcome," Kinney added.
Across the court, it was a tough end for Providence (24-11), but considering it lost in the sectional semifinal a year ago and graduated eight seniors, the journey was worth it, according to coach Eileen Copenhaver.
"These are happy tears," Copenhaver said, as her players filed out of the locker room to meet with family and friends postgame. "I couldn't be more proud of this group."
Montini's size created a lot of problems for the Celtics, Copenhaver lamented.
"The inside was always our nemesis this year," she said. "We knew all season long that was going to be our little problem."
The good news for Providence is that they will return four starters next year -- juniors Sydney Spencer, Bella Morey and Gabi Bednar, and sophomore Molly Knight.
One player who won't be back is senior Annalise Pietrzyk, who will play at Hillsdale College next year. What is she going to remember about high school basketball years from now?
"All the friendships I made," she said. "The range of friends from my freshman year, knowing seniors, and then this year, being best friends with the freshmen on our team, it's given me so many connections. It's been a blessing in my life."