The championship culture surrounding the Evanston girls basketball team didn’t grow overnight.
But the Wildkits made another statement Friday night at Beardsley Gym as to just how far the program has come.
Coach Brittanny Johnson’s team wrapped up its fourth straight Central Suburban League South division championship, exploding for 51 first-half points in a 66-38 thumping of Glenbrook South.
The Wildkits celebrated Senior Night — and the fact that they ascended to the No. 1 spot in the latest Associated Press Class 4A state poll —and those seniors will graduate having never finished lower than first place in league play. Jayla Turchin’s 19 points and 6 rebounds and Ambrea Gentle’s 14 points and 6 boards, along with Kayla Henning’s 10 points, paced the Wildkits to a running-clock victory in front of an approving home crowd.
Now 9-0 in league play, Evanston improved to 21-2 overall in advance of Saturday’s road showdown at state-ranked Lincoln-Way West. ETHS has lost only 3 division games in those 4 years, with an overall record of 36-3. The Kits conclude league play next Friday against Maine South but are already up 2 games in the standings on second place New Trier.
That streak of league titles is the longest in program history. ETHS had only won the conference a total of 6 times prior to Johnson’s arrival.
“When I played at Fenwick, we won the conference every year and it was really no big deal,” Johnson said. “But when I first got here and learned the history at Evanston, I felt that the best way to establish the program was by making that the start, making winning the conference a priority. Without trying to sound too cocky, I thought we should EXPECT to win the conference. We needed to focus on winning against the teams in the area and beating the teams in the conference because we might end up playing them a third time (in postseason play).
“Every program has a window of opportunity, and we’re right in the middle of ours right now.”
All 7 seniors were in the spotlight Friday, and all 7 scored. The lone exception was team manager Erin Walker, who dressed for the only time this season but went scoreless in about 5 minutes of playing time. From the Class of 2020, the Kits also counted 7 points from Tyler Mayne, 7 from Dayjah Chmielewski, 3 from Ariel Logan and 2 from Kaylen Hall.
Evanston blitzed the Titans with a 26-point first quarter and kept up a frantic offensive pace to build a 51-25 advantage at halftime.
Turchin scored 13 points in the first half, including three 3-point buckets, and Gentle cleaned up underneath with 14 points of her own.
“We had a different lineup than usual, and with Tyler and Jayla on the wings, I don’t think GBS knew which one to cover or how to double-team Ambrea inside,” Johnson pointed out. “So they left Jayla open, and she really filled it up for us tonight.
“When I first came here there was a lot of talk about Leighah Wool’s class being a special class, and it really was. But I saw something special in this class, too. I hoped back then that in 4 years we’d be in this position. I’m really grateful to this class because they trusted in me, and they trusted in the program. They deserve everything they get.”