- Associated Press - Saturday, March 8, 2014

NORMAL, Ill. (AP) - Montini Catholic beat Joliet Catholic 57-44 on Saturday to win its fourth girls Class 3A state title in five years.

But this time around, Jasmine Lumpkin wasn’t being interviewed in the winner’s circle after the final buzzer.

It was a somewhat bittersweet day for the Michigan State University-bound Lumpkin, who was a huge factor in Montini’s last two back-to-back championships. But on Saturday, she was on the losing end of the championship game after transferring from the Lombard school to Joliet Catholic last summer.

It was Joliet Catholic’s first appearance in the tournament since failing to place in the top four in 1985.

“Well, we tried. And it was pretty cool playing against my old teammates,” said Lumpkin, who averaged 18.3 points per game for the Angels. “We took things step by step, one game at a time all year. We were looking forward to this all year.”

Kelly Karlis scored 16 points to lead Montini. Lea Kerstein added 13 points and Kateri Stone scored 12 for the Lady Broncos (34-2).

Nicole Eckhomu led Joliet Catholic (28-3) with 14 points, while Lumpkin added 12.

“All year we’ve done a great job taking out the opposing team’s best players,” said Montini coach Jason Nichols. “We shot lights out pretty much the whole game. I think the pressure of having to beat Burlington in the Friday’s semifinals helped take the pressure off of this game.”

Montini defeated Burlington Central 34-26 Friday to advance to the title game.

Montini led 28-23 at the half versus Joliet Catholic on Saturday and recorded its largest lead at 51-37 with 3:02 left in the game.

“Our seniors (Karlis and Stone) really stepped up today,” Nichols said. “They had a tremendous four-year run. Just unbelievable.”

Montini shot 50 percent from the field, making 17 of 34 shots, while Joliet was 16 of 44 for 36 percent.

This will mark the final Class 3A tournament appearance for Montini, which moves up to Class 4A next year.

“We have a young team,” Nichols said. “We’ll see how things come together over the summer. But I’m not worried about moving up. We play many of those teams during the course of the year anyway.”

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