Heading into a game on Jan. 29 against Niles West with 19 wins on the season, the Evanston Township High School girls basketball team looked to capture its 20th win for the third time in four seasons. The Wildkits were able to do just that as they beat the Wolves 63-33. Juniors Brianna Miller and Krystal Forrester each scored 12 points to lead the Kits. The victory was the Kits’ ninth straight as they improved to 20-3 overall and 7-1 in Central Suburban League South Conference play.
Head coach Elliot Whitefield attributes his team’s accomplishment of winning at least 20 games in three of the last four years to having quality players on the roster, but the Coach is also hoping for more. “I have been blessed with a lot of good players. It is great to have talented athletes, but then when you do not reach a certain level or achievment, I look at it as underachieving. Winning 20 games is good, obviously, and it is something that I want to strive for, but I am really looking to get to that next level.”
The Kits appeared to take a step toward that next level as they handily beat Highland Park 70-52 on Feb. 2, Senior Night at Beardsley Gym in Evanston. Early in that game, as they held leads of 2-0 and 11-10 midway through the first quarter, the Giants looked as though they were going to give the Kits a run for their money. But a basket from Brianna allowed the Kits to recapture the lead at 12-11 with 3 minutes 42 seconds remaining in the quarter. The Kits then were able to extend that lead to double digits when junior Leah Robinson made it 24-14 with 7 minutes 38 seconds remaining in the second quarter. From there the hosts did not look back, cruising to a 70-52 victory.
“It was all about [seniors Sade Chuckas, Helen Enghauser, and Abby Rosenbaum] and nothing else really mattered,” said Coach Whitefield. Indeed. Not only did the three seniors start the game, but also on the Kits’ first possession, Sade got multiple chances to score an uncontested basket, which the two coaches discussed prior to the game.
“I talked with Highland Park’s coach before the game about a scenario to allow Sade to score [on the first possession]. She has not been in the game a lot [this season], so she was feeling the pressure but finally knocked it down, so that was good, and Abby knocked down some shots and had a bunch of rebounds, and Helen was active. So all in all, the girls had a very positive experience.”
Leah had a very positive experience as well, leading the Kits with 20 points, six rebounds and five steals against the Giants. In addition, freshman SyAnn Holmes scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds, and sophomore Tamia Banks chipped in a season-high nine points. Regarding Leah’s performance, Coach Whitefield said, “When Leah runs the floor and gets in attack mode, she is difficult to handle.” The Coach continued, “We need that kind of effort from her [the rest of the season], and I hope she continues to work and continues to improve, [because] when she is in attack mode, it makes us much more dangerous.”
The victory was the Kits’ 10th win in a row as they improved to 21-3 on the season. Coach Whitefield said of the winning streak, “It shows our depth has improved. Early on in the season our rotation was limited, but some more girls have earned more playing time, and I am more confident in putting them in, and it happens throughout the season.” The Coach added, “Some players play more, some play less. Players dictate how much they play, and Syann, as a freshman, [playing the position of forward] is a difficult position to play with talented juniors [on the roster], and I think she has done a very good job of continuing to work on her game. And sophomores Tamia and Amaiya Johnson, they compete every day, and regardless, our future looks bright.”
The Kits went for an 11th straight victory on Feb. 5 when they took on New Trier, but unfortunately came up just short, falling to their archrivals 62-61. In that game, the Kits trailed the Trevians by 13 points early in the fourth quarter and rallied to make it a 62-61 game in the final seconds. They had a chance to win it at the buzzer, but unfortunately, junior Savannah Norfleet’s half-court attempt with one second remaining glanced off the front of the rim, allowing the Tevians to escape with the victory. Savannah led the Kits with 18 points, junior Leighah-Amori Wool scored 16 points and grabbed eight rebounds, and Krystal, along with Leah, contributed eight points apiece. With the loss, the Kits fell to 21-4 overall and 7-2 in CSL South Conference play.
Next up, the Kits take on Glenbrook South on Feb. 12 in the regular season finale. Then they begin postseason play on Feb. 17 against either Lane Tech or Lincoln Park in the Class 4A Evanston Regional semifinals as the No. 2 seed in the New Trier Sectional.
Regarding his team’s goals and expectations for the postseason, Coach Whitefield said, “[Our goal is] to win them all. We have the Regional here, which is nice, and hopefully we will be celebrating on our home floor, but we are not going to overlook anybody. Once the postseason starts, it is literally one possession at a time.”