After finishing 2-2 in the Montini Holiday Tournament, the Evanston Township High School girls’ basketball team returned to Beardsley Gym for just the fourth time this season to take on Loyola Academy on Jan. 5. Unfortunately the Ramblers spoiled the homecoming as they beat the Wildkits by a score of 45-41.

In that game, neither team led by more than three points throughout the first half. The Ramblers held a 17-15 lead at halftime. From there, the Ramblers began to pull away, as they held a 29-24 lead heading into the fourth, which grew to 36-28 with 5 minutes 33 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter.

But the Kits stormed back to take the lead at 37-36 when senior Krystal Forrester made a free throw with 2 minutes 52 seconds remaining. Then after two Rambler free throws, junior Tamia Banks was fouled after hitting a shot to help regain the lead for the Kits at 39-38 with 2 minutes 2 seconds left. The ensuing free throw was no good.

Then the Ramblers retook the lead for good at 40-39 with 1 minute 45 seconds left. The Kits had ample chances to pull out the victory from that point, but four straight missed free throws and a missed game-tying jumper from freshman Kayla Henning during the final minute and a half proved costly as the Ramblers escaped with the victory.

“We as a team struggled [at the free throw line],” said head coach Brittanny Johnson, referring to seven missed free throws in the fourth quarter. “But we were in position to win that game, so I can hold my head up high with the fact that we just did not make the plays down the stretch, but we definitely were in position to win.” The Coach continued, “I think it is more frustrating to lose when you do not play well for three quarters. Had we just turned it up at some point, I think the outcome would have been different, but it really did take us almost 27 minutes to get it together, and I think that is more frustrating than those free throws that we missed.”

Senior Leighah-Amori Wool remained sidelined with a sprained ankle, which caused Coach Johnson to say, “I think we had a really slow start. We have played the game without Leighah before, but this was a big one without her and we struggled a little bit with our rotations and we got into foul trouble. But I am happy this is happening now as opposed to a couple months from now.”

With the loss, the Kits record fell to 16-3 overall. Leading the way for the Kits was Krystal, who scored 14 points. Kayla scored eight points, sophomore SyAnn Holmes added six points, and senior Allysah Boothe chipped in four.

“I think [Krystal] could have been better. At times she really got it done for us. But I think with her, it is a confidence thing right now. We are asking her to do a lot, especially when she does not have that comfort of having Leighah out there with her.”

Regarding her team’s ability to battle back when Loyola appeared to be taking control of the game, Coach Johnson said, “That was great. I think that says a lot about our team. I know Kayla is upset with herself for how she played down the stretch, but I think those are the tough lessons she is going to have to learn as a freshman, and I think she will bounce back and do better.” The Coach continued, “So I am positive we did fight back at the end, and we were able to manage the clock in the last part of the game and really do some nice things.”

When asked about the keys for her team as the Kits enter the final eight games of the regular season, Coach Johnson said, “When we make mistakes, we put our heads down, and we have got to stop doing that. Nobody is going to feel sorry for us right now. Nobody cares that we lost two games [in the Montini tournament], nobody cares that we do not have Leighah. We just have to find ways to win.”

The next opportunity for the Kits to get back into the win column is Jan. 13 against Maine South at Beardsley Gym. “It is a big game against Maine South,” said Coach Johnson. “I think having another week of practice to kind of fix some things [will be big], and I think that if we go over some stuff we will be better than we were [against Loyola].”