Fans of the Evanston girls basketball team didn’t get a chance to witness much offense Friday night at Beardsley Gym.

But there was a sense of deja vu for at least one Wildkit player as ETHS stymied Glenbrook North High School 27-18 – yes, that’s not a misprint – in a Central Suburban League South division contest.

Senior Taija Banks returned for her first action following knee surgery last spring and provided at least one memorable offensive play in a game where the winners shot 25% (10-of-39) from the field and the losers sank just five baskets in 39 attempts.

Arianna Milam-Pryor runs the offense at the Nov. 29 game against Maine South. In the Dec. 9 game against Glenbrook North she led the Wildkits in scoring with nine points. Credit: Michael Kellams/

Midway through the third quarter, Banks snatched a steal just inside the free throw line, and weaved her way through the Glenbrook North defense for a length-of-the-court layup that reminded observers of some of her best plays of the past on the varsity level. That score upped Evanston’s lead to 24-9.

As it turned out, the Kits mustered just three points the rest of the way and still had no trouble improving to 4-3 on the season and 3-1 in conference play. GBN fell to 7-2 and 2-2, respectively.

Banks finished with six points in limited action. Arianna Milam-Pryor paced ETHS with 9 points, and Ciara Gentle and Kailey Starks combined for 23 rebounds to make sure the poor-shooting Spartans didn’t get many second shots at the basket.

Evanston’s Ciara Gentle during the Maine South game on Nov. 29. Credit: Michael Kellams/

“I’ll probably be sore tomorrow, but it’s good to be back,” said Banks. Referring to her third period effort, she said, “I did have some flashbacks tonight when I was on the court. I felt like I played a little timid at first, because of my knee, and I’ve only had two full practices so far.

“I’m on restricted minutes and I’m really not supposed to exceed 2 or 3 minutes per quarter. It’s been really hard on me not playing, both mentally and physically. I’m trying to get my body back to where it was but it’s really been harder mentally. I know I have to keep pushing myself.

“I think my role is the same as it was last year, to be an aggressor on offense and get some rebounds. I have to be a little bit hyper and play all of the positions on the floor.”

Junior Zuri Ransom, who missed the last two games with a hamstring strain, also returned Friday and she and Banks both gave the Wildkits a boost. Evanston’s performance Friday at the defensive end, at least, had head coach Brittanny Johnson dreaming again about just what the second half could bring to her squad once they’re entirely healthy.

The Kits are still waiting for senior forward Sofia Rocca to get the doctor’s OK to resume her cage activity and her return is expected by the first week of January.

Evanston’s Kailey Starks chases a loose ball at the Nov. 29 game. Credit: Michael Kellams/

“It’s tough having to resort to load management this early in the season,” Johnson said. “We have to figure out the best way to use them because both Taija and Zuri are on restricted minutes. I didn’t want them out there too long at a time tonight, but I think having them back is one reason we didn’t have much of an offensive flow tonight because we had girls who were in different positions and we were a little confused at times.

“We spent a lot of time working on defense this past week and our defense was on point. But maybe we should have spent a little more time on offense,” she said.

The statistics would support that statement. And Johnson admitted that she couldn’t ever remember having a team score fewer than 30 points in a game. But she couldn’t remember ever holding an opponent under 20 either.

Evanston coach Brittanny Johnson during the Maine South game on Nov. 29. Credit: Michael Kellams/

“We missed a lot of shots that I know we can hit,” she said. “But GBN’s [2-3] zone was great. They’ve played mostly man-to-man according to the films we saw. Sometimes, you just have to win ugly. And honestly, I’m not happy about the amount of fouls we had tonight [14]. That’s all that took away from it being a perfect defensive game.”

A 3-point play by Banks in the second quarter helped the hosts build the lead to 20-9 at halftime, and at that point the Spartans had more turnovers (11) than points. The losers scored one field goal in the first quarter, one in the second and one in the third despite a game-high 11 points from junior guard Bryce Wolf.

“Having Taija back adds experience. She makes good decisions, she’s good when it comes to toughness, at communication, at so many things that we’ve been struggling with so far,” said Johnson. “We want to take it slow, of course, but her presence is really needed.

“The number of minutes Zuri and Taija are available will keep going up, and hopefully by the end of December or the beginning of January, we’ll have the kinks worked out. If there are no hiccups with Sofia coming back, we’ll get closer to being the team I envisioned we’d be at the start of the season.”

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