NORMAL -- Underneath Whitney Holloway's sweet exterior no doubt beats the heart of a competitor who loves a challenge.
She and Montini were up to a big challenge Friday.
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Matched against fellow all-state guard Zahna Medley, Holloway scored 19 points to lead the No. 1 Broncos past No. 3 Springfield 57-40 in the Class 3A semifinals.
Montini (32-2) advanced to the state championship for the first time in school history. The Broncos will face No. 6 Hillcrest, a 54-45 winner over Oswego, in Saturday's 2 p.m. championship game.
"We're not satisfied yet," Holloway said. "Still got one more to go."
Montini's win is its first in five trips to the state tournament. Two years ago Freeport beat Montini 41-35 in the semifinals, a game in which then-freshman Holloway was held to 3 points on 1-of-8 shooting.
Different year, way different Holloway. Her runner as time expired in the first quarter gave Montini the lead for good at 11-9. Then she stuck a pair of 3-pointers and assisted Mallory Sosnovich for another to start the second quarter. Holloway scored 9 points in the second quarter, and an Alison Seberger 3 pushed Montini's lead to 28-18 at the break.
"I felt a lot more relaxed this time," Holloway said. "The experience helped."
"She was finally getting to the glass," said Montini coach Jason Nichols of Holloway, who scored a combined 12 points over the last two games. "The last three games everything was short. She wasn't finishing. I think the big key was she hit a couple 3s which extended their defense and gave her more lanes to drive."
Holloway also turned the ball over just two times against Springfield's constant diamond pressure. Earlier in the season the Notre Dame recruit had 18 points and 1 turnover versus Bolingbrook and all-stater Ariel Massengale.
"I love playing against other great guards," Holloway said.
Montini's matchup zone handcuffed Medley and Springfield's high-octane offense. Medley, who had scored 20 or more points in the Senators' last seven games, was held to 12 - well below her 19.1 average.
"One of the things we saw on tape of Medley is she doesn't penetrate zones very well. She plays along the perimeter," Nichols said. "You get her in a man situation they run a lot of wing screens, she's deadly. We did a good job of containing her."
Springfield as a team was held to its season-low point total and to fewer than 50 points for only the second time.
"Normally we get our shots off a little easier," Springfield coach Brad Scheffler said. "We didn't get to the basket as much as we usually do. We shot 10-footers instead of layups. To their credit they knew who our shooters were and they were on them. It was hard to get open shots today."
Springfield pulled as close as 3 with 5:01 left in the third quarter on back-to-back Demi VanDerWal 3-pointers.
Holloway answered with a driving layup to ignite an 8-0 run capped by Courtney Thomas' three-point play.
Two Medley scores, the second off a Montini turnover, made it 42-35, but a Kiki Wilson free throw and Whitney Adams 3-pointer pushed the lead back to double digits for good. A pair of Sosnovich corner 3-pointers sealed the deal.
Sosnovich scored 9 points and Thomas 7, and Adams pulled down 9 rebounds to lead a 35-34 Montini advantage on the boards. Tianna Brown added 6 points and 6 rebounds.
"These girls have come a long way," Nichols said. "What they have done proves how good they are. I think sometimes that gets lost, because all you see in the articles is, 'Without Michala (Johnson, out with a knee injury), without Michala.' Credit to them. We're one step away from what we really want."