After beating Central Suburban League South Conference foe Glenbrook South on Jan. 31, the Evanston Township High School girls basketball team looked to make it two in a row against CSL South opponents when they took on Maine South on Feb. 7.
The Wildkits knocked off the Maine South Hawks 23-20 in a defensive battle at Beardsley Gym. The defense stepped up in that game, and so did Dashae Shumate. The senior hit a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to give the Kits the lead heading into the final quarter. Shumate, who tallied 9 points, also hit two clutch free throws – with only 12 seconds remaining in the game – to help seal the victory.
“Dashae continues to step up when we are struggling offensively,” said Head Coach Elliot Whitefield. “I will either look at her or say something, and she knows it’s time to be more assertive. She hit a huge 3-pointer to give us the lead, and then two free throws down the stretch to put us up 3.”
Whitefield was definitely pleased with how his team performed on the defensive end, but says his offense could have performed better. “[That was] definitely our best defensive effort of the season. The team did an excellent job executing in our half-court defense,” he said. “Offensively, we had a lot of open looks but could not make shots. We took too many 3’s and needed to be more patient. We did a better job in the second half but could have taken better shots.”
The coach added, “I thought we played extremely hard throughout the game. Senior Sierra Clayborn played despite having plantar fasciitis. She is as tough a player as anyone I’ve ever coached. Even though the game had no bearing on winning the conference or sectional seeding, we got after it. I was very proud of them.”
With that victory, the Kits improved to 18-6 overall and 6-3 in CSL South Conference play.
On Feb. 10, however, they took on Grayslake North and were defeated by a score of 54-48. Shumate and Seara Clayborn, also a senior, each tallied 19 points in the loss, which dropped the Kits’ record to 18-7.
Next up on Friday night, the Kits take on Waukegan in the regular season finale. The game will be part of Senior Night at Beardsley Gym in Evanston, which will be an emotional evening given the amount of success these girls have had. In the last three seasons, the Kits have won six total postseason games – including four regional wins and two sectional wins, while capturing a regional title and a sectional title.
Coach Whitefield said of his seniors, “I would not change one thing about the[m]. Sierra and Seara Clayborn, Dashae Shumate, Ashley Smith, Mae De Vuono, Kyler Garron and team managers Alexis King and Shaylyn Stewart will truly be missed – not only will I miss them, but ETHS and the community will miss them as well. They represent the best of what I desire from kids in my program.”
After the Waukegan game, the Kits will participate in the IHSA Class 4A Resurrection Regional as part of the Maine East Sectional tournament, where they will be the No. 2 seed. The Kits will play on Feb. 20 against the winner of the Glenbrook North and Amundsen matchup. Should the Kits win that game, they will play for the Regional championship on Feb. 21 against either Resurrection or Lincoln Park.
“Being … the No. 2 seed in our conference is a great accomplishment, especially coming off last year’s 27-4 team,” said Whitefield. “I knew we were going to have a target on our back, but this team has taken the challenge head on.” He added, “Being the two seed, I expect us to go to Resurrection and compete. We will take nothing for granted.”
When asked what the key to success will be in the postseason, Whitefield said, “We must stay healthy and play with a sense of urgency. Last year’s run and experience should help us come out physically and mentally prepared.”
If the Kits can come out ready to play, look for them to be in position to make another lengthy postseason run.