The fact that Evanston’s girls basketball team was able to practice together for a full week with a healthy roster – finally – should have given the Wildkits a boost in their confidence level even though they entered the matchup Saturday, Jan. 14, with Chicago Public Schools power Whitney Young with a losing record.

But that confidence melted in the chill of a bad start at Beardsley Gymnasium.

Even playing in the friendly confines, Evanston missed its first 14 shots from the field and couldn’t keep from getting wiped out 72-43 by the Dolphins.

Fear is still a factor as her team regroups from injuries that impacted the starting lineup right from the start of the season, according to Evanston head coach Brittanny Johnson.

Evanston coach Brittanny Johnson during a game Nov. 29, 2022. (Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com) Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

She pointed out after the Kits fell to 8-10 overall on the season that even some of the oldest players on the roster aren’t really “veterans” when it comes to varsity -– or any other – competition.

And even if you don’t like Johnson’s use of the word “fear” it’s at least clear that they’re lacking the confidence that comes from making plays and seeing the ball go through the net on a consistent basis.

“The girls we have coming back from injury really haven’t played in two years,” Johnson noted. “We still seem to have a level of fear when the ball’s in our hands. That’s just something we’re going to have to fight through. Even though they’re juniors and seniors, a lot of them don’t have a lot of time yet in varsity games. They’ve missed a ton of [playing] time because of those injuries.

“And it didn’t help us today that Whitney Young always seemed to have five players on the court who could dribble, pass and score. They’re a hard team to defend.”

Saturday’s game was a makeup contest after the two teams decided to reschedule a December date because of illness and injuries in both programs. Evanston was originally slated to travel to North Carolina for a tournament this weekend, but those plans fell through.

“We needed a game this week, and in the grand scheme of things, this is a loss that really doesn’t matter. The really important game for us is next Tuesday [against Glenbrook South], and we have to be ready for that one,” Johnson added.

“But we had hoped to have a better performance. Our level of missed layups was unbelievable again. We spent this week getting up a lot of shots in practice, but we just missed so many shots. We’re still just so fearful out there, and I have not been able to figure out why.”

That zero-for-14 start shoved the hosts into a 17-8 hole that they never could climb out of, despite Zuri Ransom’s 10 points and 9 from Taija Banks off the bench. Ciara Gentle contributed 7 points and 7 rebounds.

Young, which used two different lineups in rotation during the game, was paced by senior center Hailey Hillman’s 22 points. She sank her first eight field goal attempts and finished 10-of-13 from the floor. Olivia Vic added 16 points off the bench for the winners.

Whitney Young stretched the lead to 37-25 by halftime and poured it on in the third quarter, outscoring the Kits 23-10.  

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