Even without Connecticut-bound Michala Johnson (knee injury), top-seeded Montini overwhelmed the Riverside-Brookfield girls basketball team 92-53 in the Class 3A Nazareth Sectional final last Thursday. The Broncos exploded for 31 points in the first quarter and never looked back en route to winning a Class 3A sectional in impressive fashion.

To their credit, the Bulldogs (24-5) stayed true to their up-tempo, pressure defense identity even during their worst loss of the season.

“There’s an old saying, ‘You dance with who brought you’,” said RB coach Larry Rocco. “I believe in our system and what we do. In the first half, we didn’t do a good job covering their three-pointers or handling their pressure. Our kids played hard and never quit. Montini is an outstanding team.”

The Broncos’ Mallory Sosnovich scored a game-high 23 points, including six three-pointers in the first half. Alison Seberger (17 points) and Tianna Brown (10 points) also contributed for Montini (30-3).

Senior point guard Jessie Hutchens paced RB with 20 points. Hutchens, who will play softball at Radford in Virginia, viewed the loss from a big picture perspective.

“Obviously, we didn’t want to end our season this way but we had a good season,” Hutchens said. “We won our [Metro Suburban] conference and [RB] regional so those were big accomplishments. Our team really clicked and played well together.”

The Bulldogs cruised past King 69-42 in the Nazareth Sectional semifinals. Guard Anna Tess was a stat-sheet stuffer with 17 points, 11 rebounds, eight steals and four assists. Fellow seniors Shaquita Slater (13 points, 14 rebounds) and Hutchens (14 points, 5 assists, 5 steals) also registered big games. Leading 25-19 at halftime, RB broke the game open, outscoring the Jaguars 44-23 in the second half.

“We were able to wear them down,” Rocco said. “We put a game plan in place and made adjustments on their post players.”

Losing four key starters in Rachel Buccieri, Molly McCloskey, Regan Riley and Fallon Ryan, RB entered this season with a new crop of talented players. Seniors Hutchens, Slater, Tess, Kristy Frampton, Anita Balciunas and Kristin Kleinmeyer kept the Bulldogs’ winning ways in tact this season. Hutchens led the team by scoring 14 points per game, while Slater averaged a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds per game. Tess really emerged this season with 92 steals and 90 assists, highlighted by her breakout performance at the Morton College Christmas tournament.

“It’s a great group of kids and all six of them had their best year at RB,” Rocco said. “After the Montini game, [Montini football coach] Chris Andriano told me ‘your kids play hard.’ That always makes you feel proud.”

Looking ahead to next season, the Bulldogs return plenty of promising players, most notably 6-foot center Kelsey Egger (7 ppg, 6 rpg), who made major strides this season.

“I think Kelsey is capable of averaging 15 points and 10 rebounds a game,” said Rocco.

Veterans Maggie Zeleny, Julie Minella and Yasmin Gonzalez also return along with juniors-to-be Kiley Rusen, Meghan Orgler and Elena Duve.