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Whitney Young's Linnae Harper (15) is introduced before their quarterfinal game against Marshall in the Public League girls basketball playoffs on Saturday, January 26, 2012, in Chicago. | Chandler West~For Sun-Times Media
Montini has won state titles in 2010, 2011 and 2012, compiled a 136-10 record over the last four years and has chance to become the first girls team in Illinois history to win four consecutive state titles.
You would think boredom among the Broncos would be the least of coach Jason Nichols’ concerns.
“Do they have to be prodded at times? Yes,” Nichols said. “Sometimes they get bored. I feel they get bored out there. But they’re not going to be bored this weekend because every team is going to be after their butts, and it they think we played very well over these last five games, they’re wrong.”
Montini will try to rewrite the record books beginning Friday when the Broncos face Vernon Hills, the team it beat 56-38 to win the 2012 Class 3A championship, in a 12:15 p.m. semifinal at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University.
The Broncos must navigate a formidable field that also includes unbeaten Quincy Notre Dame and downstate Morton, which lost to Hillcrest 48-39 in last year’s supersectional and boasts one of the state’s premier players in 6-2 Sarah Livingston.
Meanwhile, in Class 4A, Young’s Linnae Harper is happy to play another day after the Dolphins blew a 17-point lead with 12 minutes left against Bolingbrook and needed overtime to advance from the Hinsdale Central supersectional.
“It’s all about experience,” she said. “Most of the players have been in this situation before, whether they have been on the court or cheering on the sidelines. We’ve all been here. It’s one game at a time. I’m just happy to get another practice to work on the things we need to do to beat Marian Catholic.”
Here’s a look at Friday’s semifinals:
Rolling Meadows (29-3) vs. Huntley (26-6), 6:30 p.m.
Both teams are making their first appearance in the state semifinals. Rolling Meadows is the only team to beat Marian Catholic this year, and seems to have recovered from consecutive losses to Quincy Notre Dame (in OT) and Fremd to end the regular season. The Andrews sisters — 6-foot junior Sam Andrews and 6-2 freshman Ali Andrews — both average better than 16 points per game for the Red Raiders.
Young (28-4) vs. Marian Catholic (31-1), 8:15 p.m.
Marian Catholic Ashton Millender averages 15 points per game and shoots 54 percent from three-point range. Sophomore Teniya Page provides floor leadership and 12 points per game. You always know what you’re going to get from Harper, but the defending state champion Dolphins will need big games from Taylor Brame and 6-5 junior Khaalia Hillsman.
Montini (34-1) vs. Vernon Hills (30-2), 12:15 p.m.
Vernon Hills’ Sydney Smith, Lauren Webb and 6-2 DePaul recruit Meri Bennett-Swanson — who all average around 11 points per game — should get theirs against Montini. Montini’s 6-4 Malayna Johnson and the Broncos’ young depth, featuring freshman sharpshooter Lea Kerstein and 6-1 sophomore Rainey Kuykendall, could be the difference.
Morton (30-4) vs. Quincy Notre Dame (28-0), 2:00 p.m.
Quincy Notre Dame is trying to extend its state championship streak to three after winning back-to-back titles in Class 2A. Morton has won 18 in a row behind 6-2 Illinois recruit Sarah Livingston (27 points, 12 rebounds in the super).