Young Montini experiences another win

A Montini girls basketball team with seven freshmen on the roster will surely have growing pains.

But the Broncos are having success while going through them.

Behind a suffocating defensive effort, Montini charged into the semifinals of its own Christmas tournament with a 61-39 victory over Marist on Thursday afternoon in Lombard.

The Broncos (16-1) advanced to take on Mother McAuley, 48-44 winners over Geneva, in Friday's 6:30 p.m. semifinal.

"I'm happy to be in the semifinals; actually I was happy to be in the quarterfinals," Montini coach Jason Nichols said, "because you get a lot of tough games, which make you better and you get that experience.

"There are times where we look really good and other times we are reminded that we have a lot of young kids on the floor and not a lot of experience."

One thing that looked good throughout Thursday was the home team's defensive effort, especially on the perimeter. Montini forced 16 turnovers and held the RedHawks to 3-of-20 shooting from beyond the 3-point arc.

The Broncos limited Marist to 2 field goals in the opening eight minutes and took a 19-6 lead, with help from a pair of 3-pointers from Zoe MacKay Zacker and a 3 from Taylor Charles.

That advantage increased to 30-16 at half and 40-24 at the end of three quarters as the visitors never got the deficit to single digits the rest of the way. Montini's 11-of-12 performance from the free-throw line in the latter stages of the fourth squashed any comeback hopes.

Frankie Kokkines topped a balanced Montini scoring effort with 13 points to go along with 8 rebounds.

"We talked at halftime and all agreed that we had to pick it up," Kokkines said. "The third quarter was OK and in the fourth quarter, we were really hitting our shots. The big thing for us was hitting our free throws and doing the little things.

"We still have a lot of improvement we keep having to work towards, but we are definitely improving."

Tatiana Thomas tallied 11 points and 9 rebounds, Sydney Prochaska had 10 points, MacKay Zacker finished with 9 and Taris Thornton contributed 8 points and 4 blocks.

"We had been disappointed in how we have been defensively," Nichols said. "But I love how we played defensively today. And that is a tough matchup, they have constant movement. It usually takes time defensively to get kids up to speed."

Sydney Affolter led Marist (12-3) with 19 points.

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