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No one will accuse the current Evanston’s girls basketball team of being a powerhouse offensive squad.

But when you play defense the way the Wildkits have, especially over the second half of the season, most of the time that really doesn’t matter.

With full-court pressure piling up turnovers against foe after foe, Evanston Township High School did it again Tuesday night in the Class 4A regional tournament semifinal at Beardsley Gymnasium.

Coach Brittanny Johnson’s squad harassed Niles West into a staggering 29 turnovers, more than enough to allow the hosts to ease to a 48-19 victory, their first postseason win since 2020.

Evanston, now 18-9 on the season, will meet Glenbrook North at 7 p.m. Friday in the regional championship contest. Winner of that game will advance to the sectional at Glenbrook South.

Coach Johnson, with a new crop of players coming to the varsity level at the start of the 2021-22 campaign, stayed away from attempting to press opponents earlier in the season when all of the pieces to the lineup puzzle weren’t in place yet.

But once Johnson realized the level of athleticism she could count on, she turned them loose. In the past month, every single foe has turned the ball over at least 20 times against the Wildkits.

Some of that comes from relentless half-court man-to-man defense, but now the Kits can count on getting some offense from their defense, too, in pressure situations.

“We just kept working on it [to get to this point],” Johnson said. “I think the key to a good press is our off-the-ball movement, and this is a team where even though we’re not big, our girls have long arms and they’re constantly moving. Our deflections and our steals are off the charts this year.

“As a coach I love to run up and down the floor and create havoc, but I haven’t had a team as good at that as this one. I think the chemistry they have off the court helps, because they’ve all got each others’ backs on and off the court. They’re very athletic, and they move so well.”

After beating the Wolves twice with the running clock in the fourth quarter during the conference season, the Wildkits were in no danger of losing Tuesday even though Taija Banks (11 points) was the only ETHS player in double figures. Zuri Ransom added 9 points and Ciara Gentle notched 8 points and 8 rebounds, all in the first half.

But the Kits couldn’t convert most of the turnovers they forced in the first half into buckets, a cause for alarm even with a comfortable 29-10 halftime lead. That all changed in a stretch of 49 seconds leading into the “mask” break midway through the third quarter.

Niles West turned the ball over four times in a row against pressure and the winners converted all four times, a 7-0 run that put the game well out of reach. It started with a steal and a three-point play by Banks, Maggie Farragher split her four free-throw attempts the next two times the Wolves tried to get across half court, and then Dawson Wright added a layup off a steal from Farragher to boost Evanston’s lead to 36-13.

The run actually continued after play resumed, and ETHS led 46-15 to put the running clock into effect in the fourth quarter.

“At the end of the third quarter I told them, see how easy it should be,” Johnson said. “When you play great defense you should reward yourself with a layup.

“What I saw tonight from our smaller lineup really makes me feel good moving forward, especially against teams without much size. Today we threw a lot of possessions away [on offense], and in the state playoffs you have to put your best foot forward on every possession.

“But I think our press can be the X-factor for us.”

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