Leighah-Amori Wool, No. 23, attempts to drive past Hanan Richmond, No. 20, at a practice session last week. Photo by Lynn Trautmann/LTPhoto Evanston

Evanston’s defense didn’t get off to a good start Tuesday in the girls basketball season opener.

And the offense? It didn’t put up much of a fight at the finish.

That combination led to a 44-32 loss to Stevenson in the opening round of the Schaumburg  Thanksgiving Tournament for coach Elliot Whitefield’s young squad.

The Wildkits sent Stevenson to the free throw line a total of 36 times and also went scoreless in the fourth quarter, missing all 11 shots from the field. ETHS plays Wheaton Warrenville South Thursday at 5 p.m. in the second round.

“The players have carried me the last couple of years and now I guess I’ll have to earn my keep as coach,” Whitefield said. “This will have to be my best coaching job in a long time this year.

“Defensively they just haven’t learned how to play yet. They have to realize that they can’t win on their individual skills alone. You can’t win games giving up 36 free throws to the other team. We did a lot of reaching in and had a lot of silly fouls. They’re going to have to learn really quickly what’s expected of them on defense.”

Early foul trouble disrupted any plans Whitefield might have had regarding a rotation, with three players making their varsity starting debuts and most of the rest playing in a varsity game for the first time.

The Patriots shot 21 free throws in the first half, but missed 12 of them as Evanston clung to a 22-21 halftime advantage. Stevenson finished with a 20-of-36 reading at the charity stripe as Savannah Norfleet and Leah Robinson both fouled out for Evanston in the fourth quarter.

Robinson’s baseline drive and rebound basket provided a 32-28 advantage for the Kits after three quarters. But they didn’t score again as Stevenson reeled off 16 unanswered points led by Ashley Richardson (20 points).

Robinson, Leighah-Amori Wool, Erika Carter and Adrianna Carter netted 8 points apiece for ETHS. Krystal Forrester added a team-high 8 rebounds after picking up two early personal fouls.