One of the problems for the Evanston girls team in an up-and-down basketball season so far has been a tendency to stray from a team approach on offense when it just seems easier to try to beat your opponent 1-on-1 off the dribble.
That problem persisted in the first half of Saturday’s showdown with Loyola Academy, but then the Wildkits all got on the same page in a 39-29 victory that boosted their season record to 7-5.
Sophomore Hanan Richmond’s 11-point splurge in the third quarter alone deserved props, but the fact that Richmond and her teammates actually ran the offense to lead to those open looks was particularly encouraging for head coach Elliot Whitefield.
Richmond converted three 3-point attempts during that third quarter stretch that came after the Kits connected on just 6-of-22 shots in the first half.
“When we go 1-on-1 like that, even when we think we’re better athletically, other teams are too smart for that,” Whitefield pointed out. “Moving the ball and spacing are the most important things for us. When we make teams guard us on the perimeter, we’re a better team. And when we move the ball and get touches underneath or in the mid-post, and then reverse the ball, we’re going to knock down a lot of shots.
“We played too much 1-on-1 in the first half. We got frustrated because we weren’t scoring — it felt like we didn’t score for about a month — and going 1 on 5 is never a good idea. For us to get better, we have to play team basketball.”
Richmond, a 5-foot-10 soph who is at times the team’s primary ballhandler, missed her first 5 shots from the floor in the first half as Evanston clung to a 15-12 advantage. She then drilled in three straight 3-point attempts and also added a pair of free throws to help the hosts pull away to a 30-20 lead.
Evanston didn’t score a single field goal in the fourth quarter but survived on 9-of-14 marksmanship at the free throw line. Savannah Norfleet netted 8 points, Leighah-Amori Wool scored 6 points and grabbed 9 rebounds, and Krystal Forrester snatched a game-high 11 rebounds for the winners.
“Hanan has spent a lot of time working on her shooting, and her perimeter game and her shot selection continue to improve,” Whitefield praised. “She has the green light from me any time, especially when other teams a keying on Leighah like Loyola did tonight.
“We did a good job in the last three quarters last night moving the ball against Maine South’s zone, by making that extra pass. That’s what you want. Uncontested shots is really all you can ask for.”