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Montini junior guard Kateri Stone is no stranger to big comebacks. Just ask Hillcrest.
Stone, who made four free throws in the final 16 seconds to cap a 23-8 run in the fourth quarter of last year’s 52-48 Class 3A semifinal victory, made six free throws in the final 41.3 seconds Saturday as Montini overcame a 31-19 deficit to defeat Wheaton Warrenville South 40-35 at Schaumburg.
Kateri finished with 14 points Saturday to lead No. 4 Montini (3-0), which outscored WW South 21-4 over the final 5:15.
“I think it was just that we were losing, and we all hate losing,” Stone said. “We just picked up the intensity on defense, and defense starts everything. Once we got our defense figured out, we just transitioned to offense.”
Two free throws by Kelly Karlis with 2:10 remaining in the fourth quarter got the Broncos even at 32-32, and a spin move in the lane by 6-foot-4 senior Malayna Johnson 48 seconds later gave Montini the lead for good at 34-32.
That’s when Stone began her parade to the free-throw line.
“You just have to stay calm,” Stone said. “We shoot free throws every day. I think your instinct takes over, your killer instinct. But it was definitely a team effort. We all picked each other up. We missed some in the first half, but I think it was a just a little nerves probably.”
Free-throw shooting also contributed to WW South’s demise. The Tigers were just 6-of-19 from the free-throw line, including 1-of-11 in the first half. Nevertheless, they still led 18-15 at the break and 29-19 after three quarters.
“We usually don’t do that [shoot that poorly],” WW South coach Rob Kroehnke said. “But when you hold them to 19 points through three quarter and let them score 21 in the fourth, you’re not going to win too many times. It was a great effort by our kids. Unfortunately, we couldn’t finish.”
WW South went nearly six minutes without a basket in the fourth quarter. Sierra Bisso’s three-pointer got the Tigers within 36-35 with 23 seconds left. But WW South eschewed other options and promptly sent Stone back to the free-throw line.
“I asked the kids at the timeout (with 3:31 remaining and still leading 31-24), we need to attack,” Kroehnke said. “It looked like we were on our heels. We were supposed to be doing the same thing we were doing all night…moving the ball, making good decisions.
“That’s what it came down to,” he added. “A couple of bad decisions, a couple of turnovers. But if we learn from this, we’ll be fine. It’s still early in the year. We’re not in January or February when it really means something. We’ll keep working. We’ll get better.”
Johnson added seven points, four rebounds and five blocked shots for Montini. Maggie Dansdill had seven points, 10 rebounds and four steals and Meghan Waldron added 13 points and nine rebounds for No. 6 WW South (1-2), but Waldron had only one shot attempt in the fourth quarter.
“We picked up our defense in the fourth quarter,” Montini coach Jason Nichols said. “We had to do something. I was scared to press them early and let Waldron get on the open court because she was beating us in the half-court. Maybe that’s my fault.
“I thought our kids found a way to win not playing good at all,” he added.