Evanston’s Ciara Gentle (21) looks to pass around Maine South’s Asia Kobylarczyk (21) at Friday’s game in Park Ridge. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

There has to be something in the drinking water in Park Ridge that encourages Maine South’s basketball players to believe any available 3-point shot is a good 3-point shot to try, no matter who you are.

Just hours after the boys varsity team shot 4-of-25 from beyond the 3-point arc on a trip to Evanston, the Hawks’ state-ranked girls squad converted only 3-of-16 from that distance against the Wildkit girls Friday night.

But two of those makes – by Katie Barker and Ava Blagojevich – came on back-to-back possessions midway through the fourth quarter and allowed South to get some separation from the Kits, enough to score a 49-44 Central Suburban League South division victory in Park Ridge.

Evanston’s Zuri Ransom (23) puts up a shot. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

Ranked seventh in the latest Associated Press Class 4A state poll, the Hawks recorded their 11th straight win on the season and avenged a December loss at Evanston. In that game, they shot a mere 5-of-23 on 3-point attempts in a 44-40 defeat.

Evanston slipped to 8-8 on the season, 3-3 in league play, after shooting just 29% from the field and turning the ball over 18 times.

Evanston’s Sofia Rocca (32) faces tight defense. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

The visitors clawed their way back from an early 9-point deficit in the second half and turned it into a one possession game in the fourth quarter. Tied at 37-all, Barker tossed in a 3-point shot and after an ETHS turnover, Blagojevich drained a 3 in transition to make it 42-37.

Evanston never got closer than 2 points after that.

Evanston’s Coach Brittanny Johnson coaches ’em up. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

“They hit two big 3s against us there, and we had a really bad turnover in between,” said Evanston head coach Brittanny Johnson. “But the missed free throws [9] and missed layups [too many to count] were really the difference in the game for us. We must have missed 15 layups in the first quarter and that’s what’s really frustrating. We just couldn’t finish plays tonight. You can’t miss that many free shots and beat a team like Maine South.

“We had so many turnovers because we were trying to force the issue when we didn’t need to. We’ve only had a full team [healthy] for about a week and a half and there’s not a flow to us yet. But we had every opportunity to win and we were right there with them.”

Maine South (14-3) earned the win behind double-figure scoring efforts from Meegan Fahy (17 points) and Barker (12), with Fahy accounting for her team’s only other successful 3-point try. Evanston was led by Zuri Ransom’s 15 points and 11 rebounds, backed up by 9 points from Arianna Milam-Pryor and 8 points and 6 rebounds from Sofia Rocca.

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The Wildkits had a chance to deliver an early knockout punch, yet couldn’t pry the cover off the rim in the first half. The hosts went almost 5 minutes without a basket to start the game, but only trailed 11-9 after the first quarter because Evanston shot only 5-of-18 from the floor, mostly from point blank range.

A pair of free throws by Barker with 37 seconds left created a 22-22 halftime deadlock. And the Hawks burst out of the gate in the second half with a 9-0 run, a trend that opponents have featured all too often against an inconsistent ETHS squad.

“Third quarters have been tough for us this year,” Johnson said. “You can’t give a team like that a lead and then have to work your way back.

“Maine South can be a hard team to match up with and when they went to their zone [2-3 matchup] it flustered us more than it should have. We didn’t do a good job of making adjustments. They jump the passing lanes well and one thing they have going for them is that there’s a lot of trust there. When they take chances on defense and miss, there’s someone up next ready to step up for them. That’s the kind of trust we want to have.”

An ill-advised 3-point try by Ally Pape helped the Kits cut the lead to 45-43 on a fast-break basket by Rocca with 1 minute, 35 seconds to play in regulation. But following a timeout, the Hawks switched to their delay game and Fahy scored a pair of free throws and a layup in the final 40 seconds.

“This was a growth game for us and we’ll get better from this,” Johnson predicted. “We didn’t put ourselves in position to win tonight – but I’m confident that we’ll get there.”

Evanston later competed Saturday at the “Grow The Game” shootout at North Central College in Naperville, losing to a strong Stevenson squad, 50-36. The event featured teams led by female head coaches.

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