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Brittanny Johnson achieved a milestone Tuesday night in a profession she never expected to join.
Now the Evanston girls basketball coach can’t imagine life without coaching.
The Wildkits achieved the 100th victory in Johnson’s short coaching tenure Tuesday at Beardsley Gymnasium, destroying Maine East 61-33 in a Central Suburban League crossover game and bouncing back from their only loss of the season the previous day to improve to 5-1 overall.
Eleven different players, led by Lola Lesmond with 17, scored for ETHS in another running clock victory. The Wildkits made the celebration complete for their head coach by getting back to their aggressive selves on defense and sharing the ball on offense, after taking a step back in Monday’s loss to Loyola Academy.
“That loss is really on me as a coach,” said Johnson, who is in her 5th season at the helm at ETHS. “Tonight we put the focus more on ourselves, and what we should do, than on the team we were playing. Yesterday was my fault and I’ll never make that mistake again.
“When I think of 100 wins I feel old. I really think of all the great kids and the great games we’ve had here. I think it shows the growth of the program, and that’s what’s special to me. I’m just really happy to be a part of it.”
Tuesday, the Wildkits cranked up their fast-break attack with offense created by the defense. Both Lesmond and fellow junior Maggie Farragher were credited with 6 steals apiece as the Blue Demons committed 29 turnovers overall, even with the clock running in the entire fourth quarter.
Already ahead 20-9 at the first quarter break, Evanson then reeled off 20 more unanswered points with a layup drill that would warm the heart of any head coach. Maine East finally scored with 1:46 left in the half on a 15-foot jumper by Mahima Chokshi.
Sophomore Sofia Rocca scored a career-high 10 points for Evanston and freshman Kailey Starks added 7.
Although Johnson’s father has coached for years at Morgan Park in the city of Chicago, Johnson — a former star at Fenwick — never considered coaching until injuries cut short her own playing career at Boston College.
“My goal then was to be in an NBA front office and be the best general manager ever,” Johnson recalled. “Then one day I was over at Morgan Park watching a practice, and I spotted a couple of things the girls were doing wrong, so I told them so. The coach said you’re right, why don’t you come out and help us some more?
“I tried it — and it became a passion for me.”
Johnson helped out a couple of seasons at Morgan Park, then coached college basketball for 3 years at Kennedy-King before being hired at ETHS for the 2016-17 season.
This year she’s finding out just how much she likes teaching the game after dealing with mostly veteran teams during her first 4 seasons at Evanston. During that time the Wildkits have compiled a won-loss record of 100-29 and they’ve won the Central Suburban League South division championship all 4 years.
“This year we’re so young that I’ve changed up the way I coach some,” she noted. “These girls need that encouraging factor. They need to know it’s OK to make mistakes, as long as you don’t make that mistake again. I’m more focused on giving them more confidence.
“I’m really enjoying the opportunity to break down the fundamentals and really teach the game, too. You don’t get a lot of that coaching at the varsity level, and I want to use this season as an opportunity to build the future of the program.”