Leighah-Amori Wool recognizes a hot hand when she sees one.
That’s why the Evanston sophomore initially gave up the ball — even though the final play was designed for her to shoot — in the waning seconds of a second round matchup with unbeaten Stevenson Saturday at the Dundee-Crown Charger Classic Christmas tournament.
But when Wool got the ball back, she launched a game-tying 3-point basket with 9 seconds remaining, and the Wildkits went on to take down the Patriots by outscoring them 13-5 in overtime for a 68-60 victory.
Wool’s clutch shot and a career-best 27 points from classmate Savannah Norfleet sent the Wildkits (9-5) into the tournament semifinals for the third straight year. They’ll face another unbeaten, Prospect, at 6:30 p.m. on Monday for the right to advance to the title game.
Wool overcame a poor shooting night but still contributed a game-high 15 rebounds to go with her 17 points. And she only hesitated briefly with ETHS trailing 55-52, after head coach Elliot Whitefield designed a play in a timeout huddle.
“I got the ball to Savannah at first because she was having such a good game,” Wool said. “But then I just cut to the ball and got it back and shot it.
“I was scared because I wasn’t shooting very well (2-of-13 from the floor in the first three periods). But I just took a deep breath, planted my feet and said to myself ‘you’re going to make it.’ Last year I would have been nervous in a game like this, and when I didn’t have a good offensive game, I’d give up. Now I realize it’s not about me, it’s about the team. Tonight I just started looking for the others. It really made me happy to see Savannah having such a good game. She really has a lot of potential.”
Wool supplied the closing touch with 9 points in the fourth quarter, almost one month to the day after the Wildkits went scoreless as a team in the fourth quarter of a season-opening 44-32 loss to the Patriots.
Norfleet ‘s 27 points included a clutch 3-pointer with 69 seconds remaining in overtime that gave the Kits a 62-58 advantage. The sophomore guard didn’t start either tournament game after losing her job in the week of practice leading up to the weekend, but definitely delivered off the bench, converting 10-of-17 field goal attempts.
“Savannah is our most skilled player, and she has no idea just how good she could be,” Whitefield said. “She’s a tremendous game player, and as soon as she realizes she could be even better with a better work ethic in practice, we’ll be better as a team. That’s the same thing for every one of our girls. She was phenomenal just when we needed her because Leighah couldn’t make a basket in the first half.
“That was a great win, an awesome win. At the end there we were going to run a ball screen for Leighah, and I don’t know if the play would have worked if we had run it correctly. She wasn’t supposed to give it up. But she just shot it — and got it.”
Evanston never led in the second half but did pull even with 3 minutes, 38 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter on a pair of free throws by Wool that made it 50-50.
Stevenson (13-1) responded by sinking 5-of-6 free throws down the stretch before Wool splashed her game-tying 3-pointer.
In the overtime period, Cookie Boothe (11 points), Krystal Forrester (6) and Norfleet each went 2-for-2 at the free throw line as the Kits pulled away.