The Evanston Township High School girls’ basketball team took on Waukegan on Jan. 9 in search of their fourth straight win and were able to get it, as the Wildkits beat the Bulldogs 70-32 at Beardsley Gym in Evanston.
The Kits jumped out to a 9-0 lead with 5:16 left in the first quarter after sophomore Leighah-Amori Wool scored the game’s first five points followed by a basket by sophomore Hanan Richmond and two free throws by sophomore Krystal Forrester. The Kits extended the lead to 26-3 heading into the second quarter and led 40-14 at the half thanks to the Kits’ ability to hold the Bulldogs without a field goal until the 6:35 mark in the second quarter and only allowing three total field goals in the first half. In the third, after both teams exchanged baskets, Wool scored her team-high 13th point off two free throws to make it a 44-16 game and the Kits would not look back, as they cruised to a 70-32 victory.
“I thought the kids did a good job of sharing the ball. I think everybody on the team that played scored, except for one girl, which is good,” said head coach Elliot Whitefield. “It is good to have a game where kids who do not get a lot of time get playing time on a Friday night as opposed to a junior varsity game in front of a crowd or whoever.” He added, “The players are real supportive of each other. I think that is what I like best and they played hard and were enthusiastic and it was not the best X’s and O’s game, but there are certain things we are going to keep pressing. [But] I am proud of them.”
In addition to Wool’s 13 points, sophomore Brianna Miller scored 10, sophomore Cookie Boothe added seven, and senior Chanelle Polycarpe also chipped in seven along with four steals. Waukegan’s Bri’Elle Johnson led all scorers with a 21-point effort.
“Leighah is continuing to develop as a player and as a leader as well. She sees things develop quicker than most players her age. So she has the skills to be a big-time player. She has still got to work on things, but just her growth from last year to this year has been great,” said coach Whitefield regarding Wool’s performance. “I know teams are going to start to key on her, and her teammates do too, so we are going to have to have other players step up.”
Regarding Miller’s performance, coach Whitefield said, “She is one of our best defensive players. She is starting to pick up the offensive concepts and the quicker she picks it up, the more she will probably end up playing.” The Coach added, “She has got long arms, she can finish, she is athletic, and she is one of those sophomores that has made a huge impact on this season and [will continue to do so] in the next couple years.”
Despite the Kits only allowing 32 points against Waukegan, Whitefield is pleased but knows his team has work to do on the defensive end of the floor if they are going to be successful down the stretch. “We did OK [on defense]. They did not have a field goal [until the second quarter], but they were in the bonus,” Whitefield said. “We still got to move our feet more than our hands. We get beat reaching, as opposed to having that help there early. Those are things we are working on in practice because when you are playing the New Trier’s, the Glenbrook South’s, and the Montini’s you are going to need to stop penetration. But Waukegan did a pretty good job of penetrating.”
With the victory, the Kits improved to 13-6 overall and 2-3 in Central Suburban League South play. The Kits have now won four in a row and nine of their last 10. The winning streak includes victories over Buffalo Grove on Dec. 30, by a score of 49-37, where they captured third place in the Dundee Crown Christmas Tournament, St. Charles East on Jan. 3 by a 56-35 score and a 58-49 victory over Oak Park River Forest on Jan. 6 followed by the Waukegan victory.
Next up, the Kits visit Niles West on Jan. 16. That game is followed by matchups with archrival New Trier on Jan. 23 and Trinity on Jan. 27 in Beardsley Gym in Evanston. Regarding Niles West, coach Whitefield said, “They like to spread the ball. Last time they shot 30 free throws and it was not one of our better games [as the Wolves beat the Kits 40-35 on Dec. 5]. I know the team has heard “E-town, Beatdown” too many times from social media or wherever from Niles.” The Coach added, “So I really will not have to say a lot to get [the team] up for that game. We will be ready. We have improved a lot so it will be nice to play them on their floor hopefully we can pay them back.”