Girls basketball: Montini bests upstart Trinity for the third time

Broncos reach Elite Eight for second consecutive year

Montini junior Nikki Kerstein

GLEN ELLYN – Montini was aware it was in for a tough test Thursday night at the Class 3A Glenbard South Sectional final.

The top-seeded Broncos were facing Trinity, a team they had already defeated twice this season in the Girls Catholic Athletic Conference.

But Montini coach Shannon Spanos knew that the Blazers had become a much more dangerous team in the playoffs.

Fifth-seeded Trinity had already knocked off No. 2 DePaul and No. 3 seed Glenbard South en route to Thursday’s title game in Glen Ellyn.

“They’ve been playing very well,” Spanos said of the Blazers. “They have high energy, they play hard and we knew they’d be coming for us.”

Turns out Montini was more than ready for the challenge.

The Broncos broke open a close game with an 11-0 run to start the second quarter, and went on from there in a 69-40 sectional championship win.

The victory gave Montini its second consecutive trip to the Elite Eight. They will play Grayslake Central, a 58-52 winner over St. Viator, at 7 p.m. Monday at Concordia University.

“We talked about not underestimating them,” said Broncos junior forward Audrey Kinney.

“It’s hard to beat a team twice, and it’s even more difficult to beat them three times, but overall we came in very confident.”

It was Kinney who gave Montini an early spark. She stood her ground and took a charge under the Broncos basket late in the first quarter, wiping out a Blazers bucket.

“We’ve been working on that,” said Spanos, “and that set the tone for the rest of the game.”

The Broncos bench erupted in cheers when the call was made.

“I had committed a foul on the previous play,” Kinney added, “so my coaches told me to step up and try to take a charge.

“(We know) that can be a big momentum-shifter, and I actually didn’t even had time to think. I just took the charge.”

Montini guard Nikki Kerstein (23 points) opened the second period with three consecutive layups, and the Broncos took a 37-21 lead into halftime.

After intermission, senior Victoria Matulevicius scored 8 of her game-high 24 points early in the third to put the game out of reach.

Broncos senior Alyssa Epps, who scored 9 points, said it was an “amazing feeling” for her team to win a second straight sectional crown.

“We always want to get back to this position,” she added.

“We weren’t even thinking tonight about the last two games (against Trinity). Everybody did their jobs and we were just present in the moment.”

Matulevicius, Epps and Riley White are the three seniors on the Montini roster, and coach Spanos talked about how much they have meant to the program the last four years.

“They’re high character kids who have given maximum effort and have great attitudes,” said Spanos. “They’ve set the culture for this program.”