After beating Niles West in overtime on Jan. 31, the Evanston Township High School girls basketball team took on Central Suburban League South foe and archrival New Trier on Feb. 8 in search of a sixth straight win. They got it. The Wildkits beat the Trevians 51-40 in the regular season finale.
Senior guard Erin Boothe led the Kits with a career-high 16 points and had six steals and five rebounds. Junior guard Dashae Shumate scored 12, and junior guard Sierra Clayborn chipped in 10. The game was played at Beardsley Gym in Evanston for the first time since 1999. “I thought Erin was phenomenal. She took over the game in the third quarter,” said head coach Elliot Whitefield regarding Boothe’s performance.
“It is easy for kids to get excited playing offense, because it is fun. Defense is work, and Erin takes pride in defending and knows the impact it has had on the team’s success.”
With the victory, the Kits finished the regular season with an overall record of 23-3 and a CSL South record of 9-1, which earned them their first conference championship since the 1999-2000 season. “I am just really happy for the kids and for our school,” said Whitefield about winning the conference title. “They worked so hard in the offseason and in practice every day, and each and every one of them has added a little something to this team.” He added, “And it is not often you can do two things at once [on the same night], like beat New Trier and knock Maine South out of a (possible tie for the) championship, too.”
As to his team’s performance against the Trevians, Whitefield said, “Overall, I think we played okay. We definitely played better in the second half. During the first half we did a lot of standing around on offense and let them dictate offensively.” He added, “We picked up our defensive pressure, intensity, and effort in the third quarter. The harder we play defensively, the more active we are on the offensive end. I know we can play better and will have to if we want to make a run downstate.”
Now that the regular season is finished, Whitefield is very pleased with how his team has played, but he knows they will need to stay focused [in addition to playing solid defense] in order to make a long postseason run.
“Except for a few injuries, I could not have scripted this season any better,” said the Coach. “The girls on this team are wonderful and really love playing together. They care about each other on and off the court.”
He added, “I expect us to come out focused and take care of business. We will not overlook anyone. [In order to do be successful in the postseason] we need to attack our opponents on both ends of the court and focus on what we do well and not on whom we are playing against. If we play like we can, it will not matter who we play.”
The Kits, ranked No. 8 in a recent Chicago Tribune poll, were set to take on the winner of Lincoln Park and Schurz on Feb. 12 in Beardsley Gym as the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A Loyola Academy Sectional. If they win that game, they will take on the winner of Maine East and Niles West on Feb. 14 for the Evanston Regional championship. Should the Kits win the regional title, they would move onto Sectionals and play the Mather Regional winner on Feb. 19 at Loyola Academy.
“We have played against Lincoln Park and Niles West twice each and Maine East once, so we know what to expect. I guess you could say the same thing for them,” said Coach Whitefield, referring to the Kits’ first-round opponent.