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Montini is back in the championship game of its own tournament after a one-year absence, but Plainfield East made the Broncos work to get there.
Montini’s Kateri Stone made four free throws in the final 11 seconds to help the No. 4 Broncos hold off previously unbeaten and No. 5-ranked Plainfield East 58-51 in the first of two semifinals in front of a packed and raucous house Friday in Lombard.
“We didn’t have a lot of momentum with fouls and stuff,” Stone said. “But I think we buckled down. We’ve been through this situation before with Geneva and with some other teams. We’ve been in this position before. It was great game. They have some very good players on their team.”
Montini (17-1) used a 16-0 run spanning the second and third quarters to build a 34-20 lead, but Plainfield East rallied to close within 44-42 with 7:07 remaining. The Bengals had a chance to tie, but missed both ends of a two-shot opportunity.
On Montini’s ensuing possession, freshman guard Paulina Castro buried a three-pointer from the deep right corner. A three-pointer by Montini freshman Lea Kerstein extended the lead to 52-45, and Plainfield East never got closer than three points the rest of the way.
“Some of our freshman really stepped up for us,” Montini coach Jason Nichols said. “We were in major, major foul trouble. Castro hit a big three, Lea Kerstein hit a couple of big threes. To be honest, I thought we were pretty much in control and almost about to blow them out, and we got in foul trouble.
“But that’s part of the game,” he added. “That’s going to happen. It was on both sides. It really, really affected us, but our kids weathered the storm. They showed a lot of intensity. Our kids wanted that game really bad. I could see it before the game. I could see the intensity in their eyes.”
Stone led Montini with 17 points and Malayna Johnson added 12 points and seven rebounds. Nina Maggio led Plainfield East (14-1) with 16 points and Gabby Williams added 11 points and nine rebounds.
“When you give them that lead, it’s really hard to chip away at it,” Plainfield East coach Missy Mitidiero said. “That’s what we talked about at halftime. Getting those small chips away at it. I have the utmost respect for our kids fighting as hard as they. You couldn’t ask for them to play a better game.”
Nikia Edom, who spent her first three years at Montini before going “home” to Plainfield East, was bothered by foul trouble throughout the contest and finished with 10 points and five rebounds. The warm welcome she received from the home crowd when she was introduced was little consolation.
“It’s all about the win, and we got the loss,” she said. “We got a game to play tomorrow we just got to bounce back. We still played our hearts out and we played to the last second. There’s nothing more you can do.”