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One drawback of being head and shoulders above your competition is you sometimes get bored playing inferior teams.
Montini has been guilty of that during the postseason, playing indifferently at times while blowing out its first four opponents by an average of 28.5 points.
But Kelly Karlis made sure the Broncos were tuned in Monday night, dominating the action early on and leading Montini to a 72-41 victory over Phillips at the Class 3A Hinsdale Central Supersectional.
It was the 26th straight playoff victory for the Broncos (34-1), breaking the state record set last year by Bolingbrook, and advanced them to the state semifinals, where they will play Vernon Hills at noon Friday at Redbird Arena in Normal.
Karlis, a 6-2 junior forward, scored nine of her 15 points in the opening four minutes as Montini sprinted out to a 15-2 lead. She finished with six rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks.
Karlis and 6-4 senior center Malayna Johnson dominated the smaller Wildcats, who had no player taller than 5-9. At one point, they combined to score 13 of 16 points.
“Kelly stepped up,” Montini coach Jason Nichols said. “Their weak side defense is not very good and I thought Kelly with her length got to the basket in a hurry and she and Malayna played a nice two-man game.”
Johnson scored 14 points on 7-for-7 shooting and also had eight rebounds and five blocked shots for the Broncos, who led 20-8 after one quarter and 37-20 at halftime before holding Phillips (17-12) to four points on 1-for-15 shooting in the third quarter to put the game out of reach.
“We were out to put them away early,” Johnson said. “We didn’t want them to think they had a chance.”
The Wildcats never did have a chance as Montini took full advantage of its significant height advantage. The Broncos outrebounded Phillips 19-7 on the offensive glass and 45-23 overall.
If that wasn’t enough, they also made 29 of 61 shots from the floor, including seven three-pointers. Montini also forced 11 turnovers in the first quarter alone, starting with a steal and layup by Karlis on the opening possession.
“I was feeling pretty good and Malayna stepped up,” Karlis said. “Malayna was able to post up pretty well so we got the ball into her, which is a big advantage for us.”
Montini’s rebounding also led to plenty of second-chance shots in the paint and kick-outs to guards Lea Kerstein and Kelsey Bogdan, who combined to knock down five treys. Kerstein had nine points and seven rebounds, while Bogdan scored eight to go with five boards and three steals.
Ten players scored for Montini, with Claire Jakaitis tallying seven and Sara Ross and Rainey Kuykendall five each.
The Broncos, who have won 21 straight, are now two wins away from becoming the first team to win four consecutive state titles.
“I think it feels fantastic [to go Downstate again],” Johnson said. “It gets better every year.”
Phillips has never been better than it was this year. The Wildcats won the first regional and sectional championships in a girls sport in school history.
“We looked nervous with all the cameras out there,” Phillips coach Larry Stokes said. “When we didn’t rotate over on their shooters I knew [the Broncos] were going to shoot lights out.
“All good things come to end. I wouldn’t trade it off for nothing.”
Guard Ashley Seaton, a 5-0 guard, led Phillips with 18 points. Asia Jones added nine points and Zemoria Jernigan had six points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals
“It will be a good memory, seeing how we started off [the season],” Seaton said. “We didn’t start off as good as we are now. We had hard times but I feel like we did well to get this far.”