Evanston sophomore Krystal Forrester played perfect defense on the final possession of Tuesday’s girls basketball showdown with No. 4 ranked Trinity.
Unfortunately for the Wildkits, Annie McKenna had the perfect answer for the Blazers.
Forrester blocked McKenna’s shot underneath, but the Trinity guard got the rebound and banked in a baseline shot at the buzzer and the Blazers escaped with a 48-46 victory at Beardsley Gym.
Trinity (20-2) prevailed in a defensive duel despite a game-high 25 points and 14 rebounds from ETHS soph Leighah-Amori Wool, who paced the upset bid by an Evanston team that was still reeling from a lopsided defeat to rival New Trier last weekend.
The Wildkits (14-8) missed out on a chance to score a signature win with the seeding for the Class 4A Glenbrook South sectional tournament on the mind of every coach who’ll vote in the next week or so. But Tuesday’s performance was definitely encouraging for Evanston head coach Elliot Whitefield, who wondered just which direction his young squad was headed in following that lackluster performance against New Trier.
“After last Friday night I wondered where their heads were, and I wondered where their hearts were,” Whitefield admitted. “But we could have won this game by two points and I wouldn’t have been any prouder of our effort tonight.
“We had questions about playing for the future after Friday’s ridiculous performance (a 50-25 defeat). But clearly, they sent a message to me tonight that they’re not just playing for the future. The more invested you are, the more you leave on the court, and it’s gotta hurt. I know they’re upset right now. But if we come out and compete and play hard like we did tonight, there isn’t a team left on our schedule that we can’t compete with — and beat.”
Wool’s brilliant performance came even though she picked up her fourth personal foul 30 seconds into the fourth quarter. Whitefield pulled the sophomore out of the lineup late in the contest on defensive possessions to help keep her in the contest, and her two free throws with exactly 2 minutes remaining gave the Kits a 46-44 advantage.
Trinity’s Alisa Fallon scored underneath to tie the score, and the Blazers held the ball for a final shot following two close range misses by Wool at the other end.
Forrester smothered the shot attempt by McKenna, but the ball dropped right back into her hands and she kissed a shot off the glass for the game-winner.
Forward Kaitlin Aylward led the Blazers with 22 points, but McKenna (8 points) was held in check by the defense of Cookie Boothe for most of the contest. Boothe also helped ignite the Evanston offense by erupting for all 8 of her own points in the third quarter.
“The ball just happened to fall back into McKenna’s hands at the end,” said Whitefield. “I’m not going to say it was all luck, because the shot itself was skill.
“I had a long talk with Cookie before the game about playing harder and with more intensity and I asked her if she could go out and guard No. 1 (McKenna). McKenna’s one of the better guards in the state and I thought she did a really, really good job on her for most of the game.
“I think Leighah showed tonight why she’s one of the better sophomores in the Chicago area, too. She drives, she shoots 3s, she handles the ball for us and she’s a tenacious rebounder who doesn’t stop fighting. She may be our best defender, too. The bottom line for us tonight is that we were right there against a very good team.”
Wool and Boothe combined for all but two of Evanston’s points in a 20-point splurge in the third quarter. Trinity led a slow-paced contest by a 21-18 margin at halftime before both offenses got untracked.