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Montini, the winners of three consecutive Class 3A state championships, kicked off its path to a fourth crown in grand fashion Wednesday night in the semifinals of the Crane Regional. The top-ranked Broncos cruised to an 85-20 victory over the host Cougars in a game that was never really competitive.
The Broncos (30-1) scored the game’s first 12 points and led 26-2 after the first quarter. Their lead was 36 points when halftime rolled around, and they continued to cruise in the game’s final 16 minutes. Yet even with the dominant performance, coach Jason Nichols saw some room for improvement.
“We’ve only had one game in 11 days, and I thought we were a little bit rusty,” Nichols said. “Sometimes kids – they are who they are - they look at who they’re playing, and don’t necessarily bring the same approach and mindset, and that was evident. I told them that, it’s not who you play, it’s how you play.
“We didn’t play very well. Hopefully we will play better tomorrow.”
Montini got a balanced scoring effort, led by sophomore Rainey Kuykendall, who scored 15 points and nabbed five rebounds, and junior Kateri Stone, who chipped in 13 points.
However the key to the win was the team’s defensive effort. Using a full-court trap, the Broncos forced 37 turnovers in the game, leading to several uncontested layups. When they weren’t stealing the ball or forcing traveling violations, the Montini defense was trapping the Crane ballhandlers, resulting in no easy looks at the basket for the Cougars.
“Our defense will be the key (to returning to the state championship),” Nichols said. “We played some passing lanes and took away some of their lazy passes.”
“But we weren’t always boxing out at the end, because we were disinterested. That’s where they got some of their points, but it’s kind of good to get a game in. Hopefully we’re a lot better on Thursday.”
The Broncos face Rosary in the Crane Regional final on Thursday evening.