Until the day – and right now it seems a long time coming – the Evanston’s girls basketball team is at full strength physically, head coach Brittanny Johnson will have to rely on players who might not be ready for prime time yet.
Rival New Trier High School faced the same situation on Thursday at Northwestern University’s Welsh-Ryan Arena. But the Trevians had no trouble establishing the upper hand and routed the Wildkits 52-31 in a Central Suburban League South division matchup.
The night was also a celebration of the 50-year anniversary of the passing of Title IX, which helped lay the foundation for high school sports competition for girls.
Evanston had to compete without three starters who were absent due to illness and injury, including leading scorer Zuri Ransom, who suffered a concussion last week. New Trier also promoted three junior varsity players to bolster its own ranks.
New Trier’s defense held the Wildkits to just 10 points in the second half and put a dent in Evanston’s hopes in the conference race this winter as the losers dipped to 3-2 in league play and 5-6 overall.
But right now Johnson isn’t concerned about the conference race, or even the second half of a still-promising season.
She’d just like the chance to scrimmage 5-on-5 again at some point before the Kits play again next week at the Morton College Christmas Tournament.
“We don’t have the depth we’d like to have,” Johnson admitted. “I come from a private school background [Fenwick High School], but we’re a public school and we just coach whoever comes in the door.
“We’ve had a lot of girls who don’t play before high school. Our numbers are low program-wide and that’s why I’m really pushing our feeder program. We’re really trying to get girls to fall in love with basketball. But right now, we have to have kids play at multiple levels [junior varsity and varsity] because we don’t have enough bodies.
“The experience will be good for some of these girls. We’re just trying to stay afloat and make the best of it until we’re at full strength.”
New Trier, now 7-6 overall and 2-3 in the CSL South, extended its lead in the all-time series between the two rivals. The Trevians own 64 wins to 41 for the Wildkits in the head-to-head matchups between them.
Another strong performance by ETHS junior Kailey Starks (15 points, 10 rebounds, 6 steals and a blocked shot) kept the Kits in contention for the first half. Evanston trailed 28-21 at the intermission thanks to two late buckets from senior Taija Banks.
But the losers turned the ball over eight times in the third period and New Trier stretched the lead to 44-27 by the end of the period. Erin Floyd (12 points), Rachael Zacks (11) and Haley Thompson (10) all reached double digits.
Sophomore Jayla Warren, starting in place of ailing senior center Ciara Gentle, added 8 points for Evanston.
“There’s a lot of simple stuff we’re not doing, and it’s because we’ve allowed fear to take over,” Johnson said. “That’s what’s really unfortunate. We’ll have to take some lickings now, I guess, but our eyes are still on the prize” for the second half of the season,” she said.
“We just need a full roster. It’s not about talent, it’s about our ability to practice and have subs and have a rotation for the games. Right now, we look like a team that just shows up for the games [without practicing]. I don’t like the way we look and I don’t like the fact that we’re allowing fear to hold us back.”
Evanston opens tournament play at Morton at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday against Benet Academy. Winner of that game will face either Lincoln-Way Central or Lake Zurich in the second round.