3A state championship: Montini 64, Hillcrest 53

Montini's Alison Seberger celebrates with teammates. (Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune / March 6, 2010)

NORMAL, Ill. -- For Montini, a 64-53 Class 3A championship victory over Hillcrest on Saturday marked the perfect ending to an improbable run that started in January with the loss of leading scorer Michala Johnson.

For Hillcrest, the game will be the one the Hawks always will wonder about.

Whitney Adams had 20 points and 10 rebounds and the Broncos set a state record with 12 3-pointers to give Montini (33-2) its third state championship of the school year to go with titles in football and wrestling.

"We had a motto for this weekend, and that was '56,'" said Adams, who hit 4 of 7 from 3-point range. "That meant being down here March 5 and 6. And we came down here with a lot of confidence."

"We wanted to do this for Michala," said senior Alison Seberger, who had 18 points on 6-of-12 3-point shooting. "So many doubted that we could do it without her, and now we've showed everybody that we're the best team in the state."

The game appeared to turn on an unfortunate moment shortly after the Broncos built a 48-38 lead with 2 minutes, 5 seconds left in the third. The Hawks (28-4) closed the quarter on a 4-0 run, and senior guard Uniquah Hampton tried to draw a charge with 42 seconds remaining.

The collision at midcourt sent Hampton into the media table, where she suffered a cut on her forehead, and she didn't return.

Still, the Hawks, who led by 12 in the first half, were able to close to 48-44 with 5:52 left in the fourth. Montini bombed in three 3-pointers, and Adams had a putback to cap an 11-5 Broncos run and extend the lead to 59-49 with 2:11 remaining. Hillcrest, making its first state finals appearance, would get no closer than six the rest of the way.

"She's one of the best players on the team, and (her loss) kind of stopped our momentum," senior guard Kristin Marshall said of Hampton. "Coach told us that we're not a one person team and that everybody had to step up and get the job done. We just couldn't get it done."

Hillcrest led 27-15 with 5 minutes remaining in the first half. Montini turned the tables, holding Hillcrest scoreless for the next 3:29 and rattling off 13 straight points -- including four from Adams -- to vault the Broncos to a 28-27 lead.

Hillcrest tied the score at 33 early in the third, but Montini responded with a 13-3 run, including two 3s from Seberger.

Player of the game: Whitney Adams, Montini, 20 points, 4 of 7 3-pointers, 10 rebounds.

Key performers: Montini -- Alison Seberger, 18 points; Whitney Holloway, 12 points, 7 assists. Hillcrest -- Shannise Heady, 18 points; Uniquah Hampton, 14 points, 5 rebounds.