Brittanny Johnson couldn’t refrain from describing Friday’s 60-51 victory at New Trier as an “ugly” win.
But the 3-point shooting of newly-eligible senior Tyler Mayne proved to be a thing of beauty for fans of the Evanston girls basketball team.
Mayne’s 4-of-6 shooting from 3-point range combined with Ambrea Gentle’s 23 points and 13 rebounds as the Wildkits clinched at least a tie for their fourth Central Suburban League South division championship.
Evanston, now 18-2 overall and 8-0 in league play, couldn’t pull away from the Trevians until just before halftime, then opened up a double digit cushion behind Mayne’s unexpected accuracy from beyond the 3-point line.
The 5-foot-7 senior made over her game while she was ineligible for the first half of the season and showed on the big stage Friday at Gates Gymnasium that she can provide some outside scoring punch, finishing with a season-high 16 points.
Mayne’s ability to shoot from beyond the arc gives ETHS another weapon and should ease the pressure on sophomore sharpshooter Lola Lesmond, who leads the team in treys. And if the Wildkits can prove to be a consistent shooting team, that makes the 6-foot-3 Gentle an even tougher cover for the second half of the season.
New Trier had no answer for either player Friday night and fell to 13-10 on the season, 6-2 in league play.
“They know they didn’t play great tonight, but I always tell them that the sign of a great team is when you don’t play well and you still win,” said Johnson, the ETHS head coach. “So I told them they should celebrate in the lockerroom. I keep telling them there will be some ugly wins, and tonight was one of them.
“I think we’re in a little bit of a rut right now, but we’ll get out of it. With Tyler and Kaylen (Hall) both back we’re trying to rebuild our team chemistry and I think it’s important that we’re tested while we’re going through that.”
Mayne, who started every game as a junior, was more of a facilitator/rebounder in the past and added toughness on the court. Now she’s added another dimension to her overall game.
“Both Tyler and Kaylen did such a good job when they were out, because they figured out what we needed as a team and worked on that,” Johnson pointed out. “Tyler’s got a new hairdo and a new spirit, and I know she’s excited to be back. The energy she gives off is something we’ve been missing as a team. She’s the most positive person I’ve ever met in my life, and you can’t do anything BUT root for a kid like that.
“She really stepped up for us in a big moment tonight. Everybody on this team needs everybody else to be successful, and Tyler can make us special.”
Even though she wasn’t eligible to play for the first semester, Mayne said she attended most of the varsity practices during that stretch and worked a lot on her own, too.
“I was in the gym a lot,” Mayne said. “Being off so long was hard, and I wanted to be able to help this team as much as I could. So I’m trying to make my shot better. My family, my teammates and my coaches all helped me to get better, and once I got back I was ready. If I get the chance now, I’ll shoot it.
“It’s funny because in practice and in warmups tonight I was missing a lot. But tonight, I felt good out there.”
Mayne’s marksmanship gave Evanston offensive balance and the state’s No. 3 ranked team really wasn’t threatened in the second half.
Gentle went to the bench with her second personal foul with 1:33 remaining in the first half, after netting 17 points, but the Kits only led 26-23. Then Mayne swished a 3-point shot, off a feed from Kayla Henning (6 points, 8 assists), Hall broke loose for a layup, and Jayla Turchin nailed a 3 from the corner for a 34-25 halftime advantage.
Another Turchin basket closed out the third quarter, with the visitors on top 53-43, and neither team did much damage on offense in the final period.
The Trevians were led by Olivia Becker’s 22 points and 11 from Aiden Casey.
Evanston resumes action at home Saturday against Oak Park-River Forest at 4 p.m.