By winning two of their first three games of the Montini Holiday Tournament, the Evanston Township High School girls basketball team earned a spot in the fifth-place game against Batavia on Dec. 30. The Wildkits beat Batavia by a 41-40 tally to capture a fifth-place finish.
In that game, junior Savannah Norfleet’s basket with 24 seconds remaining put the Kits ahead by one, and then Batavia missed two free throws with one second remaining, allowing the Kits to prevail. Savannah led the Kits with 13 points in the victory, and junior Cookie Boothe added 11 points. With the win, the Kits improved to 13-3 overall after going 3-1 in the tournament. Prior to the Batavia game, the Kits beat Geneva 58-37 on Dec. 26, lost to Whitney Young 59-50 on Dec. 28, and beat Marist 64-52 on Dec. 29.
In their first game after the tournament, the Kits took on the Central Suburban League South foe Glenbrook South on Jan. 8 at Beardsley Gym in Evanston. In that game, the Kits edged out the Titans by a 34-33 score. In the first half, neither team led by more than three points until junior Leah Robinson’s basket with 1 minute 9 seconds remaining in the second quarter gave the Kits a 16-12 lead. That would be the score at the intermission. From there, the Kits extended that lead to 24-15 after freshmen SyAnn Holmes’ basket with 2 minutes and 40 seconds remaining in the third quarter. After SyAnn’s basket, the Titans came roaring back as they outscored the Kits 15-6 to make it a 30-30 game with 55 seconds remaining in regulation time.
From there, junior Leighah-Amori Wool scored on a put back with 35 seconds left to put the Kits up 32-30. After the Titans made one of two free throw attempts with 22 seconds left, they forced a Kit turnover and made a layup to give the visitors a 33-32 lead with 13 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, the Kits got the ball to junior Krystal Forrester at half court. She was able to get all way to the rim for a layup just before the buzzer sounded, allowing the Kits to come away with the victory in dramatic fashion. Leighah led the way with 11 points, and Leah chipped in eight points.
“[In the final moments] I kept telling them to hold the ball because they had to foul us,” said Head Coach Elliot Whitefield. “But they kept passing the ball. GBS did a great job of getting their hands in the passing lanes, which I knew they would.” The coach explained, “Then at the end of the game, we were having trouble scoring or getting anything, so for me to call a timeout [after GBS took the lead with 13 seconds left] and stop the clock and allow them to set up their defense, it was going to be very difficult to get a shot off.” The Kits did have timeouts available, but Coach Whitefield chose not to stop the clock and it fortunately worked out for the home team.
Regarding Krystal’s heroics, Coach Whitefield said, “It was a good time for her to make a shot. She has been playing varsity since she was a freshman, so she knew she missed a lot of opportunities. It was not one of her best games, but she stepped up when she needed to and made a shot.”
After the GBS game, the Kits took on St. Charles North on Jan. 9 and won by a score of 36-30, improving to 15-3 overall. With eight games remaining before the postseason begins, the Kits’ record is well above .500, and any outsider looking in would think they are poised to make a lengthy postseason run. But Coach Whitefield feels his team can play a lot better heading into the final stretch of the season.
“It is tough when you have to come to practice and you have to get on experienced varsity players about giving their all and competing in practice,” the coach explained. “When I first asked the girls if they wanted to be treated as girls basketball players or athletes, they always told me athletes, which is what I would expect. I am waiting for this team to accept that challenge.” He continued, “They really do not have any other option. It is either going to be step up and accept that challenge, or they are going to be in very, very good shape. I have not lost faith in them, but time is running out. We are 15-3, and a lot of teams would be happy with that. But I am more focused on our potential and how good we can be, and until we reach where I think we can be, I have to keep getting after them.”
The Kits will look to keep getting after more victories as they take on Maine South on Jan. 15 followed by a matchup with Oak Park-River Forest on Jan. 19 at Beardsley Gym.