In-your-face defense has always been a part of the team’s identity since Brittanny Johnson took over as head girls basketball coach at Evanston Township High School.
The current edition of the Wildkits is still searching for its own identity as a team. But they’ll always spell defense with a capital D if Johnson has anything to say about it.
Evanston was credited with 25 steals in a 65-23 running-clock rout of Lincoln Park November 18 in its home opener and ETHS evened its season record at 1-1.
Blown out by Bolingbrook in the season opener, the Kits took their frustrations out on the visiting Lions in front of a delighted home crowd. If they weren’t physically overpowering the Lions’ guards and ripping the ball free, the Wildkits were ever present in the passing lanes to anticipate errant passes.
Evanston rolled to a 47-8 halftime advantage, recording 18 of those steals before the halftime intermission.
Lincoln Park mustered just six total field goals and turned the ball over 31 times, a total that might have been greater if the slaughter rule (running clock except for timeouts) wasn’t in place in the fourth quarter.
“I thought we were too tight out there Tuesday at Bolingbrook, and tonight we were loose and free,” Johnson said. “The way we played at Bolingbrook wasn’t our personality as a team. We got away from our strength, which is pressuring the ball and making people uncomfortable.
“It’s important that we keep our focus on how we play defense. Defense takes no skill, and I was really happy with our effort tonight.”
Zuri Ransom paced the winners with 13 points and only played about half of the (no) contest. Johnson played 12 players in the first quarter as the hosts broke out to a 22-3 advantage, turning defense into offense by capitalizing on numerous steals.
Dawson Wright, who missed the opener against Bolingbrook with an ankle injury, came off the bench Thursday to net 9 points and had four steals. Taija Banks and Ciara Gentle each tallied 8 points, and Kailey Starks contributed 7 points and five steals.
“It was great to have Dawson back in there,” the head coach said. “She was a huge part of that win tonight. She’s a game-changer on the defensive end and she gives us another ball-handling option out there too. We missed that against Bolingbrook.
“We took a small step tonight as a team. We just need to take it one day at a time.”