3s equal 4th title in 5 years for Montini girls basketball

NORMAL, Ill. — Montini coach Jason Nichols had the best seat in the house Saturday for his team's shower of 3-pointers.

The Broncos made sure their last game in Class 3A –- at least for a few years — would be memorable.

The Broncos took advantage of a soft spot in Joliet Catholic 1-3-1 zone to hit the majority of their 11 3-pointers in front of their bench during a 57-44 victory over Joliet Catholic in the Class 3A state title game at Redbird Arena. Montini shot 11-for-20 from the 3-point line, with Kelly Karlis (16 points) making four 3s and Lea Kerstein (13 points) and Kateri Stone (12 points) each hitting three.

Thanks to the Illinois High School Association's new success advancement formula, Montini will play in Class 4A beginning next season.

"We saw a tendency in their defenses, and we used our bigger kids to that side," Nichols said. "We did a little bit of shifting to there, and our girls had easier looks off that. ... We put shooter to shooter on the same side. That's where they have a tendency to shift their smaller girls, and that's where we shifted."

Montini (34-2) won its fourth state title in five years after placing third last season.

The Broncos defeated two of the Class 4A semifinalists, Marian Catholic and Rolling Meadows, this season and lost by nine to Young. Joliet Catholic senior forward Jasmine Lumpkin has witnessed many Montini's 3-point shows after helping them to a pair of state titles in her first two seasons.

"They shot the ball well, and when they're shooting like that there's nothing we can do," Lumpkin said. "They were hot and they were hitting them. They really had that corner 3 knocked down."

The Angels (27-3) cut a 10-point deficit to two late in the third quarter following Nicole Ekhomu's basket. Kaylee Bambule and Kerstein responded by drilling back-to-back 3s to end the third. Stone hit a 3 early in the fourth and Kerstein drilled two straight 3s to pad the lead to 49-36. Montini seniors Stone, Karlis and Sara Ross wrapped up their careers with a 138-10 record.

"We came ready to play today and our shots were falling," Stone said. "We have so many shooters that we wanted to put them on one side. ... That seemed to work pretty well. We didn't want to lose in our last game together."

Player of the game: Kelly Karlis, Montini, 16 points, 4 3-pointers.

Key performers: Joliet Catholic — Nicole Ekhomu, 14 points, 2 steals; Jasmine Lumpkin, 12 points, 10 rebounds, 4 steals. Montini — Lea Kerstein, 13 points, 3 3-pointers; Kateri Stone, 12 points, 3 3-pointers.