- Scott Powers, Reporter
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Montini junior Whitney Holloway didn't panic when Connecticut-bound Michala Johnson went down with a season-ending injury earlier this season.
Holloway never stressed about recruiting. Even if she wasn't already committed to Notre Dame, she wouldn't be thinking about it.
Whether Montini is winning by 20 points or more -- which it has 22 times this season -- or going down to the wire against one of the state's other top powers, Holloway's game is played the same.
"Nothing overwhelms her," Montini coach Jason Nichols said. "She's a smooth cat. I'm serious."
Calm, crafty and clutch, Holloway has kept the Broncos on course toward their goal of the program's first state championship. While she was an integral part to the team's success with Johnson playing, Holloway has become even more essential without the Broncos' star post player.
Since Johnson's season ended in early January, Holloway has averaged 20 points, seven assists and six steals. In that time, Montini has gone 11-1 and is now just a few steps short of reaching the Class 3A State Tournament. The Broncos and Holloway, the ESPNChicago.com Prep Athlete of the Week, will be playing for a sectional championship on Thursday.
"When Michala went down, she basically left 20 points and 10 rebounds on the floor," Holloway said. "As a team, we had to pick up the scoring and rebounding part. I tried to do it on the offensive part because I'm not that big."
At 5-foot-4, Holloway wasn't expected by anyone to start ripping down countless boards. But as the team's point guard, she had the option of passing more or scoring more to help the situation out.
She chose both.
Over the past month and a half, she's given Montini nearly nine more points and two more assists a game.
"I never asked her to step up," Nichols said. "She's just stepped up on her own. That's just natural. … There's so many one-dimensional players out there, and she's not one of them. She does many things well. She does some things great."
One of those great things has been her ability to read defenses and decide whether to dish or shoot. When Holloway arrived to Montini as a freshman, she often leaned toward the shooting side and was predominately a scorer. As a sophomore, she began distributing more. Now as a junior, she's found the perfect mix.
"I think it came with me maturing, getting older," said Holloway, who is also shooting 62 percent from the field. "I'm realizing more easily when I need to shoot on my own and when to pass the ball. It comes naturally now. I like both. I didn't feel like I had to force myself to do it. It just came to me.
"I take a lot of pride in it. I care about my stats, personally, but at the end of the day if my team is winning, that's ultimately what matters."
Having said that, while she played basket-for-basket and assist-for-assist with Bolingbrook point guard Ariel Massengale when the two top-five teams met up on Jan. 18, Holloway was disappointed when the Broncos lost.
Nichols wanted to beat Bolingbrook bad, too, but he did take from the game that Holloway's performance proved once again where she stands as an elite point guard.
"Against Bolingbrook, she had one turnover," Nichols said. "That's one of the best defenses in the country. Whitney Holloway was, to me, the best point guard on the floor in the game. I think the top junior point guards are [Whitney Young's] Chanise Jenkins and Kiana Johnson, Massengale and Holloway. I think Whitney Holloway is as good as any of them. I am biased and a little selfish. Anyone who knows the game knows Whitney Holloway is a great player."
ESPN HoopGurlz scouts know the game. In their rankings, they have Massengale positioned as the nation's top-ranked junior point guard and is followed by Jenkins at No. 9 and Holloway at No. 12.
Being one of the country's best prep players, Holloway did have the biggest names in college coaching recruiting her. There was only one dream school for her, though, and in May of her sophomore year she committed to Notre Dame.
"When I visited Notre Dame a couple times, I liked the school so much, and I felt like I wasn't going to get anything better," Holloway said.
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at email@example.com.
Whitney Holloway is the prep athlete of the week.