Montini earns regional final berth
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Any other night Nazareth basketball coach John Bonk would be smiling wide knowing one of his former players and assistant coaches had delivered his school's first regional final appearance in 12 years.
Thursday the smiles belonged to Montini coach Brian Opoka, whose Broncos beat Nazareth 71-64 in a Class 3A Glenbard South regional semifinal. No. 8 seed Montini enters Friday against the sectional's top seed, Orr, with a shot at a first regional title since 1983.
Opoka, who played basketball and baseball for Bonk at Weber, then assisted on his St. Rita basketball staff from 2002-06, saw a 61-46 fourth-quarter Broncos lead cut to 3 before pulling it out.
"It's disappointing that one of the two of us has to lose on a day like today," said Opoka, whose team also ended the prep tenure of guard John Bonk Jr. after a game-high 25 points. "We're very fortunate that we finished out, but it showed his character of his team and what he believes in his kids that they just kept fighting, never out of it."
"I'm happy for him," Bonk said. "I wish it wasn't these circumstances but sure, I hope he goes on and beats Orr. I wish him the best, without a doubt."
Logan Goss and Simmie Cobbs each scored 20 points for Montini, which also got great production and inside-outside action from starters Sean Nash, Jack Brady, Matt Brachmann and, off the bench, Pat Mooney and Cam Roedel.
"They came out in a 2-3 and they extended it out so we knew that we had to get the ball in the middle. After you get the ball in the middle, they're all going to collapse, that's going to open up the outside," said two-year starting point guard Goss, who hit three 3-point shots.
The 6-foot-4 Cobbs capitalized on his quickness to draw 3 first-quarter fouls on starter Tim Kuckailis and 2 more on his sub, John Curran.
"They hit a lot of 3s," Cobbs said, "but we'd rather they throw up 3-point shots than get easy 2-point baskets for the 6-7 guy (Kuckailis)"
Despite No. 9 seed Nazareth (13-14) shooting 1 of 14 in the second-quarter and its foul trouble, Montini (19-8) led just 26-24 at halftime. Starting with Nash's opening 3 and continuing with 9 points from Goss and a pair of Brady steals, Montini outscored the Roadrunners 23-14 in the third quarter.
The Broncos' 12-7 run to start the fourth earned a 61-45 lead with 4:09 left to play. Nazareth's 1-2-2 full-court press then caused the wheels to fall off and Opoka's tie to loosen. Montini committed 6 straight turnovers during a 10-0 Nazareth run.
Led by Bonk Jr., Kevin Connelly and Dan Kienzle — 16 points with 7 steals — Nazareth scrambled within 67-64 with 28.6 seconds left before Cobbs assisted on a Goss layup. Mooney rebounded a Nazareth miss, was fouled with 2.8 seconds left and hit both free throws.
"I don't know what to say right now," Goss said. "Last year we came close to it but we fell short. This year we were able to get through it."
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