Just in case no one believed them when they said they didn’t want the basketball season to end, Evanston’s girls upped the ante Monday night at the Class 4A Glenbrook South Sectional tournament.
In a classic postseason game that will live on in their memories long after they’ve stopped running those wind sprints at the end of daily practices, the Wildkits outlasted Glenbrook South 62-57 in four overtimes, the longest game in program history.
Able to find a second—third—and fourth wind due to their superb physical conditioning, the Wildkits wore down the Titans in a bump-and-grind contest by outscoring the hosts 8-3 in the final OT period. Evanston, now 19-11, will face top-seeded New Trier in the sectional title game at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Exhaustion set in on both sides, but the Wildkits still had some hop in their step and jumped up and down in celebration after losing twice to the Titans during the regular season. It was the second straight overtime game for the winners, who needed an extra period to beat Loyola Academy in the regional championship game.
“At some point (in the overtimes) I went a little crazy in a timeout and told them this is why we run in practice,” said ETHS head coach Elliot Whitefield. “Sometimes it is punitive, and sometimes it’s for conditioning, and it paid off tonight.
“They just didn’t want the season to end tonight. It was just an incredible effort and it was a great high school basketball game. They’re still learning as a team, and we did make some mistakes in the overtimes. But in the last overtime we played much more under control.”
Hanan Richmond (20 points), Leighah-Amori Wool (18 points, 17 rebounds) and Savannah Norfleet (15 points) provided the balance ETHS needed to dump the No. 2 seeded hosts. Ashley Oldshue scored a game-high 25 points for GBS, which finished 22-6.
Wool’s rebound basket early in the fourth OT and her two free throws with 21 seconds remaining finally put South on the sidelines. But it didn’t come easy, according to the Evanston sophomore.
“It was oh, we’ve won — and then they’d hit a shot. Oh, we’ve won again — and they’d hit a shot. Oh, we’ve won again — and they’d hit a shot to tie it,” Wool explained. “It was a long and exhausting game.
“I’m the one who complains most when we have to run sprints. I hate running, because I’m slow and it’s so annoying. But we run every day and this is a prime example of the reason why we do it. We were ready for this type of a game. We weren’t going to let this be our last game. We weren’t ready to turn in our jerseys yet.”
Evanston’s gritty defensive effort after a poor start — GBS scored 19 points in the first quarter, and tacked on just 19 more in the next three periods — never wavered. Whitefield had to dig deeper into his bench than usual as sophomores Leah Robinson and Brianna Miller played extended foul trouble for Krystal Forrester and Cookie Boothe.
Robinson contributed 7 points, 8 rebounds and kept South’s 6-footers (Oldshue and Caitlin Morrison) out of the paint with a physical toughness she hasn’t shown much in her first varsity season. Miller totaled 5 rebounds in the overtime periods and stayed in front of South point guard Carie Weinman (4 points) all night.
“After Cookie fouled out (with 5 minutes, 1 second left in regulation), Brianna really stepped up for us,” Whitefield pointed out. “She’s a relentless defensive player and tonight she stepped up and did what we asked her to do.
“Leah hit shots, rebounded and came in with fresh legs in one of the overtimes. She’s a great athlete and she can flat out play. Potentially, I think she has the most upside of anyone in the program.”
Wool, who was beaten up in the post every time she got close to the basket, didn’t attempt a single free throw in the first three quarters but eventually cashed in on 10-of-15 at the charity stripe. Her free throw with 21.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter gave the Kits a 38-36 advantage, but Oldshue answered with a drive to the hoop to tie the score.
Wool split another pair of free throws with 15 seconds left in the first OT, enough to secure a 45-45 deadlock when Weinman misfired on a 15-foot attempt. After neither squad scored in the second overtime, a 3-point toss by Oldshue produced another tie at the end of the third OT, at 54-all.
Robinson’s lay-in and a rebound basket by Wool, off a Robinson miss, pushed the Wildkits into the lead for good with 2:06 left. GBS missed two free throws — the Titans connected on just 13-of-26 as a team compared to 21-of-32 for ETHS — and both Richmond and Wool cashed in on a pair of super bonus attempts to seal the most satisfying victory of the season.
Now the Wildkits will get a third shot at New Trier, a 60-40 winner over Maine South in the other semifinal.
“We’ll have to rest up and play some excellent basketball on Thursday,” Whitefield said. “We played our worst game and they were very good the last time we played them. But there’ve been bigger upsets in sports than us beating New Trier. This is the 25th anniversary of the Miracle on Ice, isn’t it? Maybe we can turn it into a Miracle on the Hardcourt.”