The Evanston Township High School girls basketball team opened postseason play against Leyden on Feb. 12 as part of the IHSA Class 4A Maine South Regional and the Wildkits were able to cruise past the Eagles by a score of 85-35.
In that game, the Kits jumped out to a 9-0 lead as guard Jayla Turchin, center Ambrea Gentle, guard SyAnn Holmes and guard Tyler Mayne combined for the nine points. The Kits limited the Eagles to seven points in the first quarter as they jumped to a 26-7 lead. From there, the lead would grow to 38-10 when guard Kayla Henning hit a three-pointer with 3:07 remaining in the second quarter.
Then after taking a 52-16 lead into the intermission, the Kits kept firing away in the third quarter to swell the lead to 72-29 when guard Delaney Brooks drilled a three-pointer with 18 seconds remaining in the quarter. The Kits then outscored the Eagles 13-6 in the fourth quarter to close out the victory.
Against Leyden, the Kits hit 10 of 19 three-point attempts, which included two three-pointers each from forward guard Lola Lesmond, Amena Alexander, Delaney, Kayla and Jayla. Jayla also led the Kits’ scoring attack as she poured in 14 points, while Kayla added 12 and Ambrea chipped in 10 points as the Kits improved to 22-7 overall.
“It was a huge confidence booster for our kids, especially ones who have come back from injury,” said head coach Brittanny Johnson. “I was really excited to see Delaney play well, Ambrea play well, and I was excited to see Kayla play without her brace [from a torn ACL]. So I think we are just trying to take steps in the right direction and be in control of our own destiny.”
When asked how she felt seeing her team hit a plethora of shots and build a big lead, Coach Johnson said, “It was great. We have been a team all season that has started games really well and then we sometimes lose that intensity. So it was great to see that we sustained that intensity through the first quarter and hopefully we can do that moving forward as well.”
The Coach added, “It was fun to see [us make a lot of shots]. It is crazy because I watch them shoot and make them in practice all the time. But when we come to games, for some reason we just do not shoot [as well]. So I am hoping this will be a big confidence booster for them and we are definitely going to have to hit shots moving forward.”
Regarding the performances of Jayla and Kayla, the Kits’ top two leading scorers in the game, Coach Johnson said, “I thought Jayla shot the ball really well. Kayla and Jayla were both efficient early and for them it was a confidence booster. Those are both kids that we feel comfortable shooting the ball and we want them to shoot more. It was great to see them be more efficient and definitely be more effective.”
In regard to what her team took away from this game, the Coach said, “We are a very experienced team. We have players who have been in this situation before. But I think it was great for the other kids to understand what the playoff atmosphere is. So my hope is we can build off this and play well [in the Regional final].”
The Kits certainly did play well in the Regional final on Feb. 15, which pitted them against Maine South, whom they defeated 63-46. In that game, Jayla led the Kits once again as she put up a game-high 26 points, along with nine rebounds and four assists. In addition, SyAnn and Delaney each contributed nine points and Ambrea added seven, as the Kits captured their second Regional title in the last three years.
With the victory over Maine South, the Kits advanced to face Loyola Academy in the semifinals of the Evanston Sectional round on Feb. 18 at Beardsley Gym in Evanston. In that game, the Kits won 48-35 to improve their record to 24-7 overall. Jayla again led the scoring with 12 points and eight rebounds. Ambrea scored 10 points and had eight rebounds, and Tyler added 10 points and seven rebounds.
With the victory, the Kits advance to the Sectional final against Maine West Feb. 21. Should the Kits win that contest, they would face the winner of the Libertyville Sectional on Feb. 25 as part of the Palatine Supersectional round.