Neon green sneakers weren't the only thing new about Montini Tuesday night.
Playing five freshmen -- four off the bench -- the No. 1-ranked Broncos held off Glenbrook South 41-34 in their season opener at the Schaumburg Tournament.
Junior Kateri Stone, who scored a team-high 12 points, understands what three-time defending state champ Montini is up against every night.
"Right now what we need to work on most is working harder at all times. Every possession," Stone said. "Like our coach always says, every team is out to beat us, is out to get us. I don't think the freshmen realize that yet. It is our job as leaders to let them know that."
Montini shot just 4 of 24 from 3-point range, but the last one was a big one.
Holding a tenuous 36-34 lead with just more than two minutes left, Stone rose from the top of the key. The shot hit back iron, then fell in off the front rim.
"It was a good shot, kind of lucky," Stone said. "It's a 'W.' We'll take it."
Montini coach Jason Nichols reasoned that his kids weren't quite ready for the matchup zone Glenbrook South, which starts five 6-footers, threw at them.
"We fully expected them to play man," Nichols said. "We hadn't really worked on our zone offense. Their matchup zone gave us fits."
It didn't help that freshman Lea Kerstein, expected to be one of Montini's best shooters, missed the last five days of practice with a groin injury. Kerstein shot just 1 of 11 from 3-point range, scoring 7 points.
Montini trailed 16-12 a minute into the second quarter, then clamped down defensively.
The Broncos held Glenbrook South without a field goal the rest of the half, ending it on a 10-1 run. A 3-pointer by freshman Tiara Wallace gave the Broncos the lead for good at 17-16, and a Stone three-point play made it 22-17 at the break. Stone's second 3 with 3:43 left in the third quarter gave the Broncos their biggest lead at 30-22.
Glenbrook South pulled within 30-29 on a Katie Dwyer basket seconds into the fourth quarter, but a minute later Montini's Malayna Johnson scored on a lob and next trip down caught a pretty feed from Sara Ross to push the margin back to 5.
Johnson, the only Montini senior to play, had 6 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks -- and a steal in the last minute to preserve the win. Ross added 11 points and 6 boards.
Montini did give up 15 offensive rebounds, which didn't sit well with Nichols.
"Defensively, on the boards we were lazy and not engaged -- we didn't compete," Nichols said. "We got to have a better sense of urgency. The way we practiced the last week, I'm not surprised."
Molly McDonagh scored 14 points -- 10 in the first quarter -- for Glenbrook South.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.