The Evanston Township High School girls basketball team had nine seniors on the roster, the most in head coach Steve Wool’s 10-year tenure. But having that many seniors was not enough to bring a State Championship to Evanston.
Leading up to Regionals, on Feb. 11 the Wildkits beat Lincoln Park, 59-51. Senior Leiya English led the Kits with 14 points and freshman Chelsey Ransom chipped in 12 points.
The next day, the Kits lost to archrival New Trier, 52-32, in the season finale. The Trevians won both meetings against the Kits this year, edging the Kits on Jan. 7, 47-45. The Kits finished the regular season with a 15-12 record and a 3-7 record in the Central Suburban South conference.
On Feb. 15, the Kits were able to bounce back from the loss to New Trier and beat Northside College Prep, 49-37, in the Class 4A Northside Regional Semifinal. The eighth-seeded Kits were led in scoring once again by English, who scored 21 points.
“Northside is a much-improved team and we knew they were a dangerous team,” said Wool. “But in the second quarter we were able to break the game open [thanks to a 20-4 second quarter run].” Wool added, “They were ready to go and we did what we were supposed to do in beating the lower seed.”
Regarding the play of English, Coach Wool said, “This was a great game for her, she has been dynamite and has been putting up huge numbers since the New Trier game [on Jan. 7].”
On Feb. 17, the Kits took on Maine South in the Regional Championship game. With a chance to advance to the Maine East Sectional round, the Kits were unable to prevail, falling, 58-40.
Maine South jumped out to a 13-1 lead early on, but the Kits responded and were able to tie it at 25 at the half. In the third quarter, it remained a close game with the Kits trailing by two after three quarters at 36-34. But in the fourth quarter, the Kits were outscored 22-6, thus ending the season on a sour note. English led the Kits in scoring with 18 points.
“It was a lot closer than the score shows,” said Coach Wool. “They did not miss a free throw down the stretch, and they do the little things that win games. But we were impressed with how our kids fought until the end.”
Looking ahead to next season, the Kits have only six returning players on the roster. The Kits will have three seniors on the roster next year including Nikki Gill, Randi Mangrum and Alecia Cooley, who will most likely need to carry the load.
“They [Gill Mangrum, Cooley, along with freshmen Sierra and Seara Clayborn] will be looked at as the nucleus the next few years,” said Coach Wool. “We are excited; we should be a good team, but the main thing is how committed they are in the off-season.” Coach Wool added, “It is going to be hard to replace [the seniors].”
Coach Wool says one key to success next season is a strong off-season commitment. “The teams in the past that have shown commitment in the off-season have had successful seasons. This team could have done a bit better job of that. But I think all indications show that the underclassmen will do that [which] will lead to success.”
If all goes to plan and if the Kits are able to have a strong off-season, there is no telling where they can end up in the 2011-12 season.