After falling to Trinity (the No. 4-ranked team according to a recent Chicago Sun-Times poll) on a buzzer beater on Jan. 27, the Evanston Township High School girls basketball team faced another tall task against No. 20 Glenbrook South on Jan. 30.
But once again, the Wildkits came up just short, as they fell to the Titans 35-34 at Beardsley Gym as part of senior night in Evanston. The Kits trailed by 10 entering the fourth quarter but battled back and took the lead with 29 seconds remaining, after sophomore Krystal Forrester scored on a put-back, making it a 34-33 game. Krystal’s basket capped off a 9-0 run which included two baskets by sophomore Leighah-Amori Wool, and a three pointer by sophomore Hanan Richmond.
Then, GBS’s Carie Weinman hit a shot with 14 seconds remaining to take back the lead for the Titans. But the Kits still had chances. After GBS misfired at the free throw line, the Kits rebounded the ball, but had it stolen away, which resulted in a second trip to the line for the visitors. The Titans misfired again, but the Kits were unable to corral a loose ball and a jump ball was called with GBS regaining possession. On the ensuing inbounds pass, the ball ended up loose again, but the Kits were unable to corral it before the final buzzer. GBS escaped with their 19th victory, while the Kits record fell to 14-9 overall. Leighah led the Kits with 12 points and eight rebounds, with Hannan and Krystal each chipping in eight points.
Despite his team coming up just short against two ranked teams recently, head coach Elliot Whitefield was pleased with the Kits’ performance against Trinity, but felt they could have come out with more energy and aggressiveness to start the game against GBS.
“I thought our effort against Trinity was excellent. We competed for 32 minutes and needed to if we wanted to match their level of play,” said Coach Whitefield. “The GBS game was a bit more frustrating. We did not come out with the same energy defensively and were not as aggressive offensively as I would have liked. Hopefully, we will get another shot at GBS in the state tournament.”
According to Coach Whitefield, the Trinity game gave the Kits a realization that they are able to compete with the top teams in the state if they put forth the effort. “After the Trinity game, I think the girls realized that if they compete in practice, are mentally focused and fight for 32 minutes that we can compete with some of the best teams around.”
After the GBS game, the Kits did not have to wait long to get back in the win column, as they took on Grayslake North the next night and prevailed by a score of 49-39. That victory snapped a three-game losing streak. Leighah once again led the Kits in scoring with 15 points with Hanan chipping in 10. Regarding his team’s performance against Grayslake North, the Coach said, “We came out sluggish in the first half but picked it up in the second half, especially in the fourth.”
The Kits looked to stay in the win column when they took on Maine South on Feb. 6. But, that was not in the cards, as the Kits fell 52-48. Hanan led the Kits’ scoring attack with 24 points. With the defeat, the Kits’ record fell to 15-10 overall and 3-6 in Central Suburban League South Conference play.
Next up, the Kits wrap up the regular season on Feb. 13 against Waukegan and then participate in the IHSA Class 4A Glenbrook South Sectional as the No. 3 seed in the 19-team tournament. The Kits take on the winner of 14-seed Glenbrook North and 19-seed Roosevelt on Feb. 17 as part of the Maine West Regional. Should they win that game, they would play the winner of 6-seed Loyola Academy and 9-seed Maine West for the Regional title on Feb. 19.
When asked what his expectations are for the postseason, Coach Whitefield said, “With the state tournament [coming up], I am expecting us to be playing our best basketball of the season. Right now in our Sectional there is New Trier and then the rest of us. I do not know if any team in the Sectional can beat them, but I would sure love to have another opportunity,” the Coach added. “Before we can focus on Sectionals, we will need to win our Regional, which will not be easy. I have told [the team] all season there is not a team in our Sectional we cannot beat, but there are a lot of teams that can beat us as well.”
In order for the Kits to make a lengthy run in the postseason, Coach Whitefield knows what his team must do. “As long as we remain healthy, put forth the effort, focus in practice and together fight through adversity, I have the utmost confidence that we can make a deep run in the state tournament. It should be a fun ride.”
If the Kits can put forth the effort they did against Trinity and GBS, there is no telling how far they can go in the state tournament.