Montini hands Loyola 1st loss

Montini has talked all season about being strong on both ends of the court and keeping its composure down the stretch of close games.

On Thursday night, the Lady Broncos put that all together at the most opportune time.

Behind 18 points from Shannon Blacher, Montini knocked Loyola from the ranks of the unbeaten, defeating the Ramblers 43-37 in a GCAC showdown in Lombard.

"Honestly this is such a great win," said Blacher, who also had seven rebounds. "To give them their first loss, we went 0-2 against them last season. To step up and beat them is big. We hadn't had that big win just yet so this will be a big step for us.

"It just shows how much this team has grown since the beginning of the season. We lost to Fremd, we lost to Willowbrook, those are two really tough teams. To beat Loyola shows that we've grown so much as a team. We have learned to communicate with each other, especially on offense."

Coming in having not scored less than 52 points in any game this season, it was instead defense that was the driving force for the Lady Broncos (7-3, 2-0). The home team limited Loyola to just a single basket in the second quarter as Montini went on a 19-5 run to grab a 26-12 lead at halftime. Blacher had a pair of 3-point plays during that spurt and Victoria Matulevicius, who finished with eight points, followed with one of her own.

The Lady Broncos forced 12 turnovers and primarily kept the visitors on the perimeter where the Ramblers shot 5-20 from beyond the arc. Sawyer White led the defensive effort with five steals to go along with six points and five rebounds.

"I think everyone really stepped up," White said, "and played their part today. No one was bigger than the team. Everyone played their principals on defense and put the team in front of themselves. I'm so proud of our team.

"This is super special for us. We've been working so hard in practice, focusing on playing as a team and stepping up in big situations. Everyone did a great job with that tonight."

Despite being held to just four points in the third quarter, Montini still took a 30-22 advantage into the final eight minutes. Loyola would get as close as four before Blacher answered with a layup and Samantha Mogilinski knocked down a 3-pointer. Mogilinski also scored eight points.

The Lady Broncos then hit five free throws over the final minute and a half to close it out.

"Everyone contributed, everyone stepped up tonight," said Montini coach Shannon Spanos, whose team's three losses have come by a combined 16 points. "We've talked about it all year, everyone did their job tonight. This was incredible.

"We've also talked about it all the time that all of our players are capable of putting the ball in the hoop. But to play a complete game, we need to do it on both ends of the court and we had that tonight. Our defensive intensity in the first half was incredible, that's the best first half we've played all year."

Angelina Giordano, who began her career at Montini, led the Ramblers with 18 points.

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