After falling to Loyola Academy in last season’s Evanston Regional title game, the Evanston Township High School girls basketball team hopes to avenge that loss with a solid 2012-13 campaign.
“I’m expecting us to battle for a [Central Suburban League South] conference championship, win our regional and be playing our best ball at tourney time,” said Head Coach Elliot Whitefield, who enters his second season in Evanston. “Of course, we need to stay healthy [to do that]. Even though our conference opponents lost some great players, the conference will be good.”
Whitefield added, “The only way to be successful is through hard work. I like the team chemistry at this point and we need to remain focused on the team first.”
Even though the Wildkits came up short of a regional title last season, the coach hopes his team learned some valuable lessons. “I am hoping that the returning players learned that selfishness and an inconsistent work ethic did not get us to our potential. I am going to push them because I know this group is mentally tougher.”
In order for the Kits to reach their season goals, they will need their returning players, including six seniors, to play a big role this season. The top returnees include senior center and co-captain Alecia Cooley, junior guard and captain Sierra Clayborn, junior guard Searra Clayborn, senior, co-captain Gabrielle Nottage and senior guard Erin Boothe. This season the Kits also feature junior guard Dashae Shumate, who transferred from Niles West.
“We have a number of key players returning from last year’s team who should be very competitive,” said Whitefield. “We will continue to pressure teams defensively, push the ball up the floor and pound the ball to Cooley. It should be a very exciting season for the Evanston Wildkits.” He added, “The leadership this year has been outstanding and we will need that to continue if we want to be successful.”
As to what is coming up this season, Whitefield said, “I am looking forward to conference play and the Dundee-Crown Christmas Tournament (Dec. 26-29), where I know we will have to play well to win. I am also looking forward to Dec. 8, when we play Loyola. The boys’ game is after ours so it will be nice to play in front of some (of our) fans. We are going to be fun to watch and the girls deserve the support from the Evanston students.”
The Kits opened the season on Nov. 19 and beat Zion-Benton 59-51 as part of the Deerfield Invite. Cooley led the Kits, totaling 17 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots. Shumate added 17 points and six rebounds and Sierra Clayborn chipped in 11 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals in the victory.
They then beat Proviso East, 62-39 on Nov. 21, Lincoln Park 60-22 on Nov. 23 and Maine East 63-44 on Nov. 27 which put them at 4-0 at the top of the season. “The tournament went well,” said Whitefield, regarding the Deerfield Invite. “We beat a very good Zion-Benton team and beat the other teams rather easily. Everyone played in those three games, which is always nice to start out the season.”
On Nov. 30, the Kits looked for a fifth straight win and they got it beating Glenbrook South 41-37 in the CSL South Conference opener in Glenview. The Kits were led in scoring once again by Cooley, who scored 13 points.
Next up, the Kits take on CSL South foe Waukegan on Friday night followed by Loyola on Dec. 8 in Beardsley Gym in Evanston.