Girls Basketball: Montini gets past Crane, advances back downstate
Updated: February 27, 2012 9:49PM
Montini guard Kateri Stone didn’t get down on herself after shooting air balls on her first two three-point attempts at Monday’s Class 3A Hinsdale Central Supersectional.
The 6-1 sophomore guard kept firing away, sinking her next four shots, including back-to-back three-pointers, as the Broncos went on a 26-2 run en route to a 46-24 victory over Crane.
The victory advanced the two-time defending state champions to the state semifinals for the fourth time in the last five years. They will play Hillcrest, whom they defeated in the last two state title games, at 2 p.m. Friday at Redbird Arena in Normal.
Both Montini (31-5) and Crane, which was appearing in its first supersectional, played poorly at the outset, combining for 16 turnovers in the first quarter.
“We lacked energy,” Montini coach Jason Nichols said. “I don’t know if our nerves got to us, but just from the start that was not the pace or the style we’ve been playing with. But so what? We still found a way to win.”
Stone and 6-4 junior center Malayna Johnson led the way for Montini. After Crane (13-8) grabbed an early 4-2 lead on baskets from Demara Howard and Jameeshia Armstrong, an inside hoop from Johnson gave the Broncos the lead and then Stone assisted on a trey by Nikia Edom.
Stone, who finished with 11 points, three assists and three steals, then drained her two threes off passes from Kelsey Bogdan and scored the first two baskets of the second quarter on layups.
“It was definitely my teammates,” said Stone, who is over the sickness that slowed her last week. “They were like, ‘you can’t stop now, we really need you. So they helped me pull through it. They said there was a lot on the line, so I kept shooting.”
Stone’s last bucket gave Montini an 18-4 lead and the Broncos relied on their stingy defense the rest of the way in cruising to their 19th consecutive playoff win.
“We were ready to win even though we got off to a bad start,” Johnson said. “When [Stone] made shots everybody got ready to play and we got in the game.”
Johnson, a Wisconsin recruit, and 6-0 senior forward Tianna Brown played key roles at both ends. Johnson scored six points in the third quarter as the Broncos extended the lead to 35-10 and finished with 10 points on 5-for-6 shooting to go with four rebounds and two blocks.
Brown tallied six of her 11 points in the fourth quarter and had five rebounds.
“We had an advantage in the post,” Nichols said. “Malayna was awesome, making layups, blocking shots. God bless her. We need that.”
Unable to find room inside, the Cougars were forced to rely on their outside shooting, which was poor until the fourth quarter. Crane went scoreless for 7:25 in the first half and at one point went 11:48 without a basket. They made only 5 of 32 shots through three quarters and 9 of 43 overall.
Montini is giving up just 33.5 points per game, less than they did last season.
“I think it’s because of our length,” Stone said. “It really helps us that we’re all really athletic. [Johnson] has had a couple really good games back-to-back. She’s really stepping up for us.”
Stone is one of four new starters for the Broncos, who have won 16 of their last 17 games.
“I’m really proud of our team,” Stone said. “No one said we could do it, but we proved everybody wrong and I think we played well as a team.”
Armstrong scored 12 points and Howard had eight points and seven boards for Crane, which won its first sectional title in a girls sport by beating Guerin 47-42 last Thursday.
“I think it was an overwhelming experience,” Crane coach Rodtrice Tucker said. “We were playing their basketball. We never played Crane basketball until the last minute of the fourth quarter. For the underclassmen it’s going to make them want to come back harder [next year].”