Elliot Whitefield thought prior to the start of play at the Deerfield Thanksgiving Tournament that Proviso East might provide the biggest hurdle to his Evanston girls repeating as tourney champions.
That wasn’t just a case of a high school basketball coach never taking anything for granted. After all, the Pirates had thrashed the Wildkits during a summer tournament at York, a fact Whitefield pointed out to the Kit girls prior to Wednesday’s game.
Payback was sweet for Evanston when it really counted. ETHS destroyed Proviso by a 71-35 margin after building a 58-18 advantage after three quarters, and improved to 3-0 on the season.
None of Evanston’s starters played more than a half. Sierra Clayborn tossed in 16 points, and Seara Clayborn and Dashae Shumate each added 11 in a rout in which 11 of the 13 players who saw action for the Wildkits scored.
Evanston outscored the losers 35-9 in the first half and the Pirates didn’t reach double figures as a team until midway through the third quarter. Proviso turned the ball over 18 times in the first half, with the Clayborn twins accounting for four steals apiece.
Still, Whitefield had some concerns prior to the tip-off.
“Deerfield hit a ton of 3s the other night against Proviso and they played their best game of the season to beat them,” the coach pointed out. “I think we knew if we played well, then we’d be OK. Proviso East was a different team when we played them in the summer. I guess some of their playmakers weren’t here today.
“At this point in the season, right now we’re just competing against ourselves. No one (team) stays the same during the season. Will we continue to improve, or take a step back?”
Evanston left no doubt about the outcome in the first quarter, even though the winners didn’t score at all in the first five minutes. Sierra Clayborn finally ended that drought with a 3-pointer from the left corner and the rout was on.
ETHS surrendered only four baskets in the entire first half, and opened the third quarter with a 17-0 surge that allowed Whitefield to clear his bench. That third quarter stretch featured some of Evanston’s best transition basketball in the still-young season.
“We didn’t break their press very well, and we’ll have to do much better there,” the coach said. “But I really like the way we’re sprinting the floor, getting out and making the extra pass in transition. We work a lot on transition drills in practice, and our defensive transition was pretty good, too.”
ETHS resumes tournament action on Friday at 5 p.m. against Zion-Benton, and winds up tourney play at 7 p.m. Saturday against host Deerfield.