After beating Bowden Academy in the Martin Luther King Dream Classic, the Evanston Township High School girls’ basketball team looked to carry the momentum gained in that game into a matchup with Central Suburban League South Conference foe Maine South.
In that game, on Jan. 20, the Wildkits beat Maine South, 46-36. The Kits trailed 11-2 early but outscored the Hawks 44-25 the rest of the way. The Kits were led by sophomore Seara Clayborn, who had 14 points. Senior Sinclair Cunningham added 12 points and nine rebounds. Junior Alecia Cooley had 12 points and eight rebounds, with sophomore Sierra Clayborn (Seara’s sister) adding seven points.
“Losing by 20 to (them) at their place and then beating them by 10 here is a testament to (our) team’s improvement,” said Head Coach Elliot Whitefield. “Maine South was ranked No.7 and was 20-1. (This) was a great win for the program.”
From there, the Kits took on another conference rival in Waukegan, beating them on Jan. 27, 50-34, in their first game after final exams.
“(The first) game after finals week is always a concern. To the kids’ credit, they played with a lot of energy,” said Coach Whitefield. “Waukegan is a much improved team and played very physical. Alecia battled their post all night and Sierra played with incredible heart. As we get closer to state playoffs, we will need to play physical basketball.”
The next day, the Kits took a break from the conference schedule and faced off against Oak Park-River Forest at Beardsley Gym in Evanston on senior night. In that game, the Kits beat the Huskies, 55-39. The Kits prevented the visitors from scoring any field goals in the first quarter, limiting them to two free throws. They led 20-2 after one quarter of play.
From there, the Kits cruised to victory as Cooley had 15 points and 18 rebounds with Cunningham adding 12 points, six assists and seven rebounds. With the victory, the Kits improved to 13-10 overall.
“The most important thing was to have Beardsley Gym decorated for Senior Night. The seniors set the tone for the night, jumping out to a 20-2 lead,” said the Coach. “(Seniors) Cunningham, Nikki Gill, Domonique Williams, Randi Mangrum, and Britanny King will be missed.”
The Kits held the Huskies to two points in the first quarter and nine in the second with a stifling defense that took the Huskies out of rhythm.
“Throughout the season our defense has been outstanding,” said the Coach. “We knew Stekara Hall was their top player and (we) took her out of her game. Caroline Kelty was their shooter and (we) frustrated her. The girls have seen that we can compete with anyone when we defend.”
The Kits’ victory over Oak Park was their fourth in a row, and they hope to keep rolling against Niles West on Feb. 3. From there, they take on New Trier on Feb. 10, then they close out the regular season against Lincoln Park on Feb. 11. After that, they are set to play the first round of the Evanston Regional on Feb. 13.
“We are the sixth seed, which is what I thought we would be,” said Coach Whitefield regarding Regionals. “We play Von Steuben and if we win, we most likely will play Loyola who beat us in December.” He added, “We are a different team now and look forward to a rematch. I think winning a regional championship is a very realistic goal. We can compete with any team in our sectional.”