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It’s rare when the Evanston girls basketball team encounters a foe in either division of the Central Suburban League that wants to run-and-gun with the Wildkits.
Deerfield obliged on Tuesday night — and threw a scare into the Wildkits for a half, before ETHS scrambled past the Warriors 63-52 behind Rashele Olantunbosun’s 18 points in a CSL crossover matchup at Beardsley Gymnasium.
With a young lineup consisting almost entirely of freshmen and sophomores, Deerfield trailed only 32-30 at the halftime intermission, but couldn’t keep up with the Kits in the second half. Evanston improved to 11-2 on the season and will play a home-and-home series with arch-rival New Trier this weekend. Brittanny Johnson’s squad will also play Chicago Kenwood in a shootout on Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at Morton College.
The ETHS head coach certainly took the young Warriors seriously prior to the game, but the players took some convincing.
“We got more serious on defense in the second half,” Johnson said. “I tried to stress to our team that Deerfield was a very good young team, and I’m sure their coach is happy with the way they played against us tonight. And they probably thought I was over-doing it when I told them how good their point guard (sophomore Alexis Kerstein) was, but I was right.
“We took care of business a lot better in the second half.”
Kerstein poured in 19 of her game-high 27 points in the first half, matched up against Olantunbosun for the most part. The ETHS senior got some defensive help from newly-eligible sophomore reserve Dawson Wright, who kept Kerstein from penetrating the lane. Kerstein only got off 2 field goal attempts in the third quarter, and freed up from that defensive responsibility, Olantunbosun splurged for 9 points herself in the period as Evanston outscored the Warriors 17-8 in the third quarter.
Deerfield trailed 49-38 entering the fourth quarter and never got closer than 6 points after that.
“We asked a lot of Z tonight and we need the others to step up and help more,” Johnson pointed out. “I thought Dawson played really well — we really needed her minutes — and so did Ellie Oif. It was defense by committee against her (Kerstein).
“We also did a really good job tonight of keeping them off the offensive glass. I told them at halftime that we’d lose if we kept playing the way we were playing, and I think they were a little shocked at that. Usually we rely on trying to speed other people up, but they’re a team that wants to play fast.”
Lola Lesmond scored 14 points and had 12 rebounds, and Amarii Mays contributed 12 points and 7 boards for the winners. Deerfield committed 27 turnovers and Kerstein was the only Warrior in double figures.