Listed at 6 feet, 4 inches, Ciara Gentle is already the tallest player in the history of the Evanston girls basketball program.
Just how much on an impact she will make in the future is still a question. But behind Gentle and Taija Banks, two sophomores with perhaps the most up-side as far as talent on the varsity roster, the Wildkits rolled over Highland Park 52-18 Tuesday in a Central Suburban League crossover contest.
Gentle scored a career-high 11 points and added 6 rebounds while Banks, slowed because of knee surgery for the past year and a half, logged major minutes in the blowout and netted a career-best 8 points.
Both players have older siblings who excelled for head coach Brittany Johnson in the past and the only hurdle in their way so far has been a lack of court experience.
“Sometimes even I forget just what a young team this is,” said Johnson after the Kits improved to 13-4 on the year. “I was looking for a game to help build their confidence a little. I really liked the energy we brought tonight.
“We promoted Taija to the varsity (at the end of her freshman year) on a very good team, so that tells you right there what we thought of her. She missed all of last year and really wasn’t ready this year, so she missed out on half the season. She’s still getting comfortable, but we’re really excited about her future.
“We’ve been taking baby steps this year with Ciara. One of the highlights of the season for me has been her progress. I’ve seen a lot of growth from her. She’s not the same player as her sister (all-conference standout Ambrea) because she’s really not a low post player. I think she’s going to be more of a stretch 4 (forward) for us.
“We have so lacked a low post presence this year, though, and we did a good job of getting the ball inside to her tonight. Ciara has been working with Coach (Kienya) Jones a lot on finishing and she could be really important for us this weekend against Maine South. We’d like to get some good minutes from her against them.”
Gentle converted 4-of-11 shots from the field and dominated the smaller Giants, whose tallest starter was 5-8. Evanston led 15-2 at the first quarter stop and 33-6 at the halftime intermission, on the way to another running clock slaughter rule victory.
Lola Lesmond contributed 7 points in just one quarter of action. Freshman Kailey Starks totaled 6 points and grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.
Evanston achieved the lopsided win without the services of leading scorer Rashele Olantunbosun, who was sidelined after suffering an ankle injury in Sunday’s game against Kenwood Academy. Olantunbosun would officially be listed as day-to-day on a team injury report leading into the final weekend’s home and home series against division leader Maine South.
ETHS plays Friday night at Maine South at 6 p.m, then will host the Hawks on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Wildkits currently trail South by one game in the standings and need a sweep to repeat as South division champions.