Girls Basketball: Montini holds off Hillcrest lateMontini's Rainey Kuykendall (32) and Angela Talley (2) celebrate after the Lady Broncos made a basket in the IHSA Class 3A semi-final game on Friday, March 2, 2012 in Normal. | Jon Durr~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 2, 2012 7:36PM
NORMAL – The cup of lemonade and ice that an irate fan sent raining down on the Redbird Arena court Friday probably cost Hillcrest a sportsmanship banner.
The three-pointers that Montini rained down in the fourth quarter definitely cost the Hawks a shot at the Class 3A state title.
One, two and three times the Broncos converted from the arc to make as much as a 13-point deficit disappear. They then prevailed in a scramble at the finish to beat Hillcrest 52-48.
It was Montini’s third straight win over Hillcrest on three straight state finals weekends. The Broncos, Class 3A champions in 2010 and 2011, are to meet Vernon Hills in the title game on Saturday.
“My gosh, what a comeback,” Broncos coach Jason Nichols said. “Down 11 at the end of three? Thank God for Kateri. I don’t know if she got lost on the way to the arena, but she showed up in the fourth quarter. That’s all that matters.
“For the kids, for them to come back like this. it’s a huge win. If they don’t have confidence tomorrow... whoa.”
Broncos sophomore Kateri Stone stuck in the biggest daggers, hitting a pair of threes and scoring 12 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter. Nikia Edom (14 points) and Tianna Brown (10 points, 9 rebounds) also paced Montini (32-5).
Hillcrest (27-4) was led by Jasmine Sanders (13 points), Samirah Ali (12 points) and Mariam Awoniyi (14 rebounds).
“Give credit to coach Jason Nichols and the Montini staff for showing that refuse-to-lose, never-say-die attitude,” said a somber Hawks coach John Maniatis. “Their team tonight fought very hard in the fourth quarter, and they capitalized on turnovers and some of our missed opportunities.”
“It was a heavyweight fight between two quality programs, and we wish well to the team from Lombard.”
It was about as hard to swallow as it could get for the Hawks, who used a 17-0 run to erase a 10-7 second-quarter deficit and seize control of the proceedings.
All through foul trouble that landed scoring leader Shannise Heady on the bench for most of the first half and kept Ali from being able to play pressure defense in the second, they survived.
A large part of the reason was a sterling effort by Sanders, who had a pair of threes and scored 11 of their first-half points.
It was 28-20 at the half, 40-29 after three. Montini, flailing away and missing often from the perimeter, would get within three or four possessions, but in each case somebody would step up for Hillcrest.
Awoniyi’s board play was a key, and Ali was able to find her way to the line and hit free throws. When Heady, playing with four fouls, drove for a bank-in with just over seven minutes remaining, it was 42-29.
At 44-35, Hillcrest went to the line on two consecutive possessions, and missed the front end of 1-and-1s. It was after the second miss, with 3:37 left, that Stone hit her first three of the game and started an avalanche.
“I think towards the end coach said, ‘If you’re going to lose, leave it all on the floor,’” Stone said. “So I didn’t want to go out having to say that I missed open shots. I decided to keep shooting them and eventually they started falling.”
Stone’s second three, with 1:23 showing, tied the game at 46-all. Jasmine Lumpkin followed with a drive along the left baseline for a layup to put them in front for good.
Hillcrest appeared to tie the score at 48-all when Ali hit a running bank-in. But the basket was negated on a traveling call.
That’s when the cup flew from the stands, and Hillcrest’s state title hopes flew out the window.