After beating Maine East to win the Class 4A Evanston Regional championship, the Evanston Township High School girls’ basketball team earned a trip to the Loyola Academy Sectionals and putting them just two victories shy of being able to celebrate a sectional title for the first time in over a decade.
In the Loyola Sectional semi-finals on Feb. 19, the top-seeded Kits took on archrival and No. 5 seed New Trier and beat the Trevians, 50-35. That marked the third time the Kits beat the Trevians this season and it gave them a berth in the Sectional title game against No. 2 seed Maine South. In that game, on Feb. 21, the Kits defeated Maine South, 54-42, giving the Kits their first sectional title since 2000. That was also the last season they had won the Central Suburban League South Conference title. But they ended that streak as well when they clinched the CSL South championship on Feb. 8 against New Trier.
"I thought we came out very focused against Maine East, especially defensively. We jumped on them early and were in control," said head coach Elliot Whitefield regarding his team, who went on a 17-0 run to take control of the game after trailing 7-2 early in the first quarter. "Maine East played hard and are young. They will only get better."
The Coach added, "It feels great [to win the Sectional title] and I am really happy for the girls. They put in so much effort and time to improve in the offseason and it shows that hard work pays off. We have such great team chemistry on this team. They love playing basketball together and are always there to pick each other up."
Against Maine South, senior center Alecia Cooley finished with a team-high 18 points and junior guard Seara Clayborn added 13 points, including three 3-pointers to lead the Kits. Regarding Cooley’s performance, Whitefield said, "Alecia brought great energy early. When she comes out aggressive offensively, teams have to key on her, which opens up our shooters."
The Kits, who improved to 27-3 overall, have won 10 games in a row and Whitefield attributes that success to his team’s continuous ability to play solid defense throughout the regular season and in the postseason. "Our defensive pressure has been outstanding. When you have the ability to shut teams down, you always have a chance to win."
Heading into the Super-Sectional round, Coach Whitefield said his team will continue to do what they have done all season. "Our goals and expectations [for the Super-Sectional] remain the same [and] that is to go all out, all game. We are going to play to win as a team."
The Kits took on Rolling Meadows in the Niles West Super-Sectionals at Niles West on Feb. 25. Rolling Meadows, 28-3 overall, going into the game had won the Libertyville Sectional as the No. 1 seed. "Rolling Meadows is a very talented team and they play very hard. It is going to take a great effort to beat them," said Coach Whitefield before the game.
The Kits ended their season in a heartbreaker, losing 54-31. Chris Livatino, ETHS Athletic Director said, "Despite their loss to a very strong Rolling Meadows team in the Supersectional, the girls had a tremendous year winning the CSL South Conference Championship, Regional and Sectional Championships and making it to the Elite 8 for only the second time in school history.
"Special thanks to Coaches Elliot Whitefield and Karis Stone and seniors Erin Boothe, Sierra Brown, Alecia Cooley, Gabrielle Nottage and Khadean Stephens on taking us on a wonderful ride this year."
Had the Kits won that game, they would have headed downstate for the first time since the 1990-91 season and played in the final four at Illinois State University’s Red Bird Arena in Normal on March 1. A victory in the final four would have put the Kits in the State championship game on March 2.