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The Central Suburban League’s decision to play back-to-back weekend games during the abbreviated basketball season placed even more of an emphasis on the preparation for each foe by every team’s head coach.
What a difference a day made for Evanston’s girls and head coach Brittanny Johnson on Saturday.
Just hours after suffering their first conference defeat, a lopsided 62-40 loss to New Trier, Johnson and Co. found the right answers on defense and stifled the Trevians in a 50-43 triumph at Beardsley Gymnasium.
Evanston’s clinging man-to-man defense held the visitors without a single field goal for a 7-minute stretch in the second half, and that effort was more than good enough to keep the defending champs alive in pursuit of another CSL South division title.
A home-and-home series against conference unbeaten Maine South will end the regular season next weekend, with the Wildkits needing a sweep to capture the outright title.
Saturday, Rashele Olantunbosun — who celebrated Senior Day along with classmates Amarii Mays (8 points, 4 rebounds) and Ryann Lucas — carried the offensive load with a game-high 18 points as ETHS improved to 12-3 overall, 7-1 in league play. Rising sophomore Maeve Kelly paced New Trier (9-6, 5-3) with 17 points, netting 6 of those points in garbage time in the fourth quarter after the winners had already built a 10-point advantage.
New Trier, which led 21-18 at halftime, couldn’t get any open looks in the second half and turned the ball over 9 times to help the hosts pull away. And there were no defensive gimmicks necessary to get the job done, according to Johnson.
“I couldn’t sleep last night. It’s on me that we just weren’t prepared right for them Friday,” Johnson admitted. “I didn’t put them in the best position to win. I’m really proud of the way they understood the game plan better and executed it better today. And I’m going to make sure we’re better prepared for our last 4 games.
“We had 2 goals for this game. One was to lock down No. 21 (Liv Becker) and the other was to defend the paint better. For the most part, we executed our game plan to perfection. I 100 percent got out-coached by Teri Rodgers yesterday, because we didn’t make the adjustments we needed to make. We changed our entire game plan on defense. We (finally) identified New Trier as a team that would have trouble with our halfcourt defense, so we didn’t press on a single possession today.”
The winners outscored New Trier 17-6 in the third quarter, and led 35-27 after Olantunbosun scored on a traditional 3-point play, then tossed in a 3-point shot just before the buzzer. Then the Wildkits, who haven’t been a good free throw shooting team despite their record this season, converted 11-of-16 at the charity stripe in the fourth quarter to secure the win.
Olantunbosun and sophomore Dawson Wright each connected on 4 straight attempts and New Trier never got closer than 6 points down the stretch. Wright finished with 9 total points.
“I know winning the conference is important to Z (Olantunbosun). She was so disappointed after last night’s game, and I loved her response today,” praised Johnson.
Evanston will participate in a shootout event on Sunday at Morton College, matched against Kenwood Academy of Chicago in a game at 5:45 p.m. The shootout schedule also pits Loyola Academy versus Lincoln-Way West at 9 a.m., Joliet Catholic versus St. Ignatius at 10:45 a.m., Marian Catholic versus Butler Prep at 12:30 p.m., Aurora Christian versus Fenton at 2:15 p.m., Trinity versus Marist at 4 p.m., and Simeon versus Maine South at 7:30 p.m.