Evanston’s girls basketball team played an almost perfect half of basketball Tuesday night in the home opener at Beardsley Gymnasium.
And if that’s the way the Wildkits are going to respond to a loss, even head coach Brittanny Johnson might not mind an occasional defeat this season.
After piling up a whopping 56 points in the first half, the Wildkits recorded a 73-40 victory over Vernon Hills in a Central Suburban League crossover contest and improved to 5-1 on the young season. Eleven of the 12 Wildkits who suited up scored — in the first half — and the running clock for the new slaughter rule for high school basketball took effect in the fourth quarter of the blowout win.
Ambrea Gentle’s 13 points and a career-high 12 points by freshman Lola Lesmond topped the ETHS point production, with Kayla Henning adding 9 and SyAnn Holmes contributing 7. The Wildkits shot 65 percent (24-of-37) from the field in the first half and led 56-14 at the intermission.
Vernon Hills (3-3 overall) never had a chance against an ETHS squad that was still reeling from a lopsided loss to Maine West in the final round of last week’s Schaumburg Thanksgiving Tournament.
“Our response to losing for the first time was just incredible!” exclaimed Johnson. “We just had a bad game against Maine West, but in years past we haven’t been able to respond to adversity that way. We were very close to perfect in that first half. This was a small glimpse of what we could be as a team in the future.
“Sometimes you learn a lot from a loss, so in that way Friday was a win for us. It helped push us closer to where we want to be as a team.”
Gentle won her individual matchup against DePaul-bound Vernon Hills post player Kayla Caudle, who mustered just 10 points, most of them coming against the ETHS reserves. And Lesmond tossed in four 3-point baskets after scoring a total of just 9 points in her first 5 games previously.
But the best news for the Wildkits were the totals put up by both Henning and Holmes, two players still on the mend from injuries who will prove crucial to the squad’s overall success this season.
Holmes played in just her second game and scored all 7 points in the first quarter as the hosts broke out to a 28-1 advantage after 8 minutes. The margin grew to 31-1 on a trey by Lesmond before the Cougars finally scored a field goal with 6:54 left in the first half.
Neither player is back to 100 percent physically yet, but Tuesday’s game marked another step forward for both. The Wildkits also welcomed back junior Jayla Turchin, who had dealt with some back issues and only played in one game at Schaumburg.
Johnson has limited the minutes for both Henning and Holmes, taking a long view for the season rather than worrying about the team’s won-loss record in November or December. “I’ve been adamant about not playing them big minutes because I’d hate it if they came back, tweaked something and we lost them for another month,” she pointed out. “I’m trying to be strategic about how much they play.
“We’re still a work in progress until they get healthy and I don’t think we’ll be where we want to be as a team until Montini (Christmas tournament). I think that will be perfect timing for us.”
The Wildkits are back in action on Thursday with a CSL South division test at New Trier. The two rivals shared the league title last year.