By Bobby Narang
For the Enterprise
Montini coach Jason Nichols had one last parting gift to deliver to senior Kaylee Bambule.
After the Broncos defeated Fremd 35-22 in the Class 4A state third-place game in Normal on March 4, Nichols, while sitting in the postgame press conference with Bambule and Claudia Kunzer, informed Bambule that she was the school’s all-time leading 3-point shooter.
“(Former Montini player) Kateri Stone was texting me after Friday’s semifinals about the all-time leading 3-point shooter,” Nichols said. “She asked, ‘Did (Kaylee) pass me?’ I said, “Yup.”
Bambule, an Ohio University signee and Plainfield native, beat some special players to earn Montini’s all-time 3-point shooting mark with over 300 3s. The Broncos have produced countless college players during Nichols’ tenure, and won four state titles and earned four third-place trophies.
“It’s really cool because Montini has had a lot of great three-point shooters,” Bambule said.
Bambule closed out her stellar career with a flourish, and added a new wrinkle to her game. Mostly a spot-up shooter, Bambule became a regular penetrator late in the season. She put the ball on the floor and hit the game-tying basket at the buzzer to force overtime in an eventual double-overtime win over Homewood-Flossmoor in a Class 4A supersectional.
“We did not plan for Kaylee to do that: She doesn’t drive often,” Nichols said.
Bambule, a guard and Class 4A AP First-Team selection, scored eight points in Montini’s 37-35 loss to Edwardsville in the state semifinal, and added six points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals against Fremd.
Bambule said the win over Fremd was a special way to end her career with a win. She had to take on more responsibility this season, not only because of her experience but due to season-ending injuries to highly regarded guards Nikki Oppenheimer (Syracuse recruit) and sophomore Zoe Zacker, a top 100 recruit nationally.
“To play in this game and end my career at Montini with a win is unbelievable,” Bambule said. “We got hit with two of our better players with season-ending injuries and it showed a lot of toughness and a lot of heart for us to get here. I’m beyond proud of our team.”
Nichols, a hard-driving coach, showed his soft side when talking about Bambule’s worth to the program. Bambule spent hours in the gym working on her shot and becoming a well-rounded player.
“She has been guarded so hard this year,” Nichols said. “You give her an inch, she will take advantage. Kaylee Bambule will really be missed next year.”
The 5-foot-7 Bambule averaged 13 points and 3.5 rebounds and made 117 3-pointers this season for the 33-2 Broncos.
“I had a great experience at Montini,” Bambule said. “I couldn’t ask for a better experience. I don’t think there’s anything better. Coach got the best out of us, made us work hard and become better players.”