Blacher's late three-point play saves Montini against Burlington Central

Montini senior forward Shannon Blacher is cognizant of the fact that the Broncos are going to get the best an opponent has, especially in the playoffs.

Case in point was Tuesday's Class 3A Sectional semifinal against Burlington Central, a game where Montini escaped with a 44-41 victory.

The Broncos put together an 11-0 run early and things looked pretty good.

The pesky Rockets just wouldn't go away, though, nailing eight three-pointers, and in fact took a 41-39 lead with 1:25 to go.

It was Blacher to the rescue in the final 1:02, as the NIU recruit managed a three-point play on a layup, then forced a turnover on the ensuing play that led to a layup by Victoria Matulevicius that set the final score.

"It's really hard to know that every game anything can happen, so we have to come out and play our best game, which we didn't really do this game, but we fought as hard as we can as we always do," said Blacher, who finished with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

Even when things looked a little bleak, Blacher and her teammates focused on the big picture.

"All we were thinking is do anything we can to win this game," she said. "We were fighting on every loose ball, we were crashing the boards and trying to find any possible opportunity to score."

Added Matulevicius, the goal in that touch-and-go moment was to "just play our hardest and there are no more games, when you lose you're done. Play your hardest and do anything in your power to win that game, because if you don't, you'll have so many regrets."

Matulevicius finished with nine points and four rebounds.

Burlington Central may have been a bit outsized by the Broncos, but that didn't seem to matter much. The three-point shot translated to an 8-2 run in the Rockets' first quarter and a 9-2 run in the second.

Much later, in the fourth quarter, it was senior Page Erickson who nearly lifted the Rockets to victory. She hit a three-pointer to start the period, hit on a key layup with 5 minutes to go, and set up a three by sophomore Samantha Origel with 2:24 to go that gave Central just their second lead of the game.

Erickson led Burlington Central with 16 points, 14 the second half, and grabbed 9 rebounds. Emma Payton scored 9 points.

The Rockets finish at 22-11 while Montini advances to Thursday's championship game against Providence Catholic.

"Montini is just a really good basketball team," Central coach Collin Kalamatas said. "They have the athletes that they have, they are able to kind of make some plays on us."

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