After falling to New Trier in the Maine East Sectional championship game last season, the Evanston Township High School girls’ basketball team looked to get that sour taste out of their mouths with a solid showing in the season opening Schaumburg Lady Saxons Thanksgiving tournament.
Unfortunately, the Wildkits fell to Stevenson 44-32 on Nov. 18 in the season and tournament opener. Forward/center Leah Robinson, guard/forward Leighah-Amori Wool, guard Erika Carter and guard/forward Adrianna Carter each scored eight points and center Krystal Forrester added a team-high eight rebounds to lead the Kits’ attack. The Kits led by a score of 32-28 heading to the fourth quarter, but were unable to score again as Stevenson prevailed.
However, the Kits were able to bounce back and beat Wheaton Warrenville South 50-35 on Nov. 20. Guard Savannah Norfleet scored 16 points and had six steals and guard Cookie Boothe scored 11 points with four steals. In addition to Norfleet and Boothe combining for 10 steals, the Kits as a team forced 19 additional turnovers, for a total of 29, which helped pave the way to their first victory of the season.
The Kits looked to make it two in a row on Nov. 22 against St. Charles East, but were unable to do so, as they fell by a score of 66-54. Norfleet led the Kits in scoring once again with 15 points. She also added five rebounds and five assists. Wool also tallied 15 points along with four rebounds, and guard/forward Hanan Richmond contributed seven points and five rebounds.
The Kits got back on the winning track on Nov. 25 as they beat Rockford Boylan 35-33. Norfleet again led the Kits’ attack, scoring 10 points and adding four steals, with Boothe adding eight points and Wool chipping in seven points and a game-high 11 rebounds. On Nov. 28 the Kits made it two in a row as they beat Schaumburg 62-36. In that game, Richmond scored 14 points and six rebounds, Wool scored 13 points, Boothe scored nine points, and Forrester contributed eight points and six rebounds as the Kits cruised to victory, improving to 3-2 overall.
Regarding his team’s performance against Schaumburg, head coach Elliot Whitefield said, “I thought we played well. We came out and we shot better than we had been shooting.” He added, “Richmond probably played her best game with 14 points, Wool had 13 and she was knocking down shots, so I was really pleased with our effort.”
With three victories in the tournament, Whitefield said he was pleased with the team’s performance, but knows there is still work to be done. “We played pretty much how I expected [but] the kids are learning what it takes to compete at [the varsity] level and it was good competition and it was something I wanted us to face, especially with [the] conference [portion of the schedule] coming up.”
“I was [also] very pleased with our sophomores,” the Coach continued. “One of our sophomores, Savannah Norfleet was named to the all tournament team. She was our leading scorer in the tournament and she played very well, especially being her first games on varsity as our point guard and our main ball handler.” The Coach added, “She does an excellent job with her decision-making whether it is to shoot, drive or dish and go, and she is going to continue to get better.”
When asked what the team took away from the tournament moving forward, Coach Whitefield said, “I think we are going to benefit from our depth. I thought the effort was excellent. So as long as the kids continue to put forth that effort and to play unselfish, we have the athleticism, [so] once we start to execute a little better, I think we will be a very, very good team down the road.” The Coach added, “[We have had a] good start, we won our last two and we need to build on that to be able to improve.”
On Dec. 2, the Kits convincingly beat Maine East, 65-29.
Next up, the Kits take on Niles West on Dec. 5 at Beardsley Gym in Evanston. From there, they face archrival New Trier on Dec. 9 in Winnetka in a rematch of last season’s Sectional final. Regarding Niles West, Whitefield said, “Aside from a few tendencies that they have, our main focus is on us and what we are trying to do. No matter where we play, my focus is more on us and playing up to our capabilities and whatever happens, happens.” He added, “As long as we play hard, and play together, I think we have a chance to compete with everyone we have on our schedule.”