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Montini withstands Geneva’s comeback bid
By Joshua Welge | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/8/2012 11:31 PM

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At times Saturday Montini showed flashes of brilliance.

Fortunate would be a better word for its finish.

No. 16 Geneva stormed back from 11 down in the fourth quarter, No. 1 Montini holding on 58-55 in a controversial finish in Lombard.

Morgan Seberger’s fourth 3-pointer with 31 seconds left pulled the Vikings (7-4) within 55-54. After a Montini missed free throw, Geneva ran a give-and-go with Sami Pawlak and Abby Novak off an inbounds play.

Novak appeared to get hit on the drive to the basket, but no call was made, the ball knocked away and Montini’s Kelly Karlis chased it down. Geneva coach Sarah Meadows howled in protest and was still hot afterward.

“Absolutely it was a foul. She got tackled,” Meadows said. “The girl grabbed her and brought her back. That’s a terrible call.”

Montini (9-0), which twice held double-digit leads in the second half, couldn’t put away Geneva. Most glaring, the Broncos missed three front ends of 1-and-1s in the last 98 seconds. A basket by Montini’s Malayna Johson, who had 15 points, 6 rebounds and 5 blocks, had given the Broncos a seemingly commanding 52-41 lead with 7:31 left.

“They extended our bottom girl out and backdoored us,” Montini coach Jason Nichols said of the last play. “I don’t know what happened. But we should have never got to that point if we make free throws down the stretch. If we make free throws the game’s over.”

Montini trailed 32-25 with 1:31 left in the first half after a Seberger 3-pointer, but from there the Broncos hit Geneva with an 18-0 run spanning into the first two minutes of the third quarter.

Sara Ross and Kateri Stone turned steals into three-point plays to end the half ahead 33-32, Stone canned a 3-pointer off an inbounds play to start the second half and Karlis converted a three-point play in transition. An off-balance Karlis drive-and-score over Geneva’s Sami Pawlak made it 43-32.

Karlis 12 had points, Stone 11 and Ross 10 rebounds. Montini’s youth off the bench, though, does make the Broncos prone to inconsistent stretches.

“I think right now we lack a bit of a killer instinct,” Nichols said. “Great teams put teams away when they have a chance. You let a good team get back into the game like we did and they take advantage. We’re good, but we want to be great and we got to get that killer instinct. That’s got to come from our juniors and seniors.”

Montini, in particular, made a conscious effort to hurt Geneva with points in transition off turnovers. It’s no coincidence. With Michaela Loebel out for the year with a torn ACL, Geneva lacks a true point guard.

“We wanted to run with this team because we’re a lot faster than them,” said the 6-foot-2 Karlis, who had several deflections and steals atop Montini’s matchup zone. “They were definitely getting us on the boards. They just kept coming.”

Indeed. On Geneva’s pre-game grease board were the words “statement game.” And the Vikings’ spirited effort sure showed not to count them out minus Loebel.

Pawlak scored 20 points, 15 of them in the first half, and pulled down 11 rebounds, and Seberger was huge with 15 points. Geneva also took advantage of 15 offensive rebounds.

“These girls are fighters and they’re going to fight no matter what,” Meadows said. “We get up for this game. We want to play Montini.”