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Vernon Hills fans and players celebrate a 48-45 3A overtime victory over Montini at Redbird Arena Friday, March 1, 2013, in Normal. | Matthew Grotto~Sun-Times Media
NORMAL, Ill. — There will be no four-peat for Montini.
Lauren Webb scored 21 points including six free throws in overtime and Brie Bahlmann blocked Montini’s three-point try to tie with under 10 seconds left in overtime as Vernon Hills stunned the Broncos 48-45 in a Class 3A state semifinal Friday at Redbird Arena.
Vernon Hills (31-2), which lost to Montini in the 2012 championship game, will play Quincy Notre Dame (29-0) for the Class 3A title Saturday at 2:00 p.m.
The Cougars admitted they were in shock after the final horn sounded Friday.
“But it’s a good shock,” junior guard Sydney Smith said. “I still can’t believe we took second place last year.”
Smith scored just seven points, but made a key defensive play when she stripped Montini’s Kelly Karlis on a drive to the basket with 14 seconds left in overtime as the Broncos tried to rally after yielding the first six points of the extra session.
“We’re a team that finishes,” Smith said. “When you play a good team, you’re going to have turnovers no matter what. In games like these, it’s about who’s going to finish, who’s going to finish layups, who’s going to make their free throws. That’s exactly what we did.’’
Webb, who was 12-for-14 from the free-throw line, converted four free throws to give Vernon Hills a 46-40 lead in the extra session, then added two more after a Kateri Stone three-pointer got Montini within 46-43 with 1:06 remaining.
“We do a lot of drills in practice with the similar pressure,” said Webb, whose comment drew a few chuckles from her teammates who probably wondered what kind of pressure could be “similar” to a state semifinal.
“I know earlier in the game when I missed a couple, my teammates did a great job getting back on defense,” she added. “We all stay composed.”
Montini (34-2) shot just 8-for-36 from the field and trailed 35-24 after three quarters, but went on a 16-3 run to take its first lead since 3-2 on a drive by Karlis with 1:22 remaining in regulation.
Webb tied the game at 40-40 with two free throws at the :42 mark, but after a Montini miss with 15 seconds left, Smith missed a three-pointer to win at the regulation buzzer.
“Vernon Hills did a great job,” Montini coach Jason Nichols said. “They had a great game plan. We struggled. We struggled in all phases of the game…defense, rebounding. Rebounding was absolutely a killer. I‘d like to see how many second-chance points they had.”
Vernon Hills out-rebounded Montini 50-23 and had 21 offensive rebounds. Montini finished 15-for-53 from the field and shot just 2-for-10 from three-point range.
“We missed 35 shots and had five offensive rebounds,” Nichols said. “That has been our Achilles’ heel. Our defensive rebounding at times has been poor and our offensive rebounding has been missing. When you miss shots, there are opportunities there. I thought Vernon Hills took advantage of that today.”
Karlis led Montini with 18 points and six rebounds and Stone added 10 points.
DePaul recruit Meri Bennett-Swanson had 10 points and nine rebounds for Vernon Hills.
“We just weren’t mentally there on defense in the overtime,” Stone said. “We still allowed a lot of rebounds, we still committed a lot of stupid fouls and we still got outhustled.”