No longer a threat to win the Central Suburban League South division race, Evanston’s girls are left with just one reasonable goal for the remainder of the 2022-23 basketball season: Try to be the team that no one wants to play in the Illinois High School Association postseason tournament.
Whether or not the Wildkits can get to that point is still up in the air after they lost to Glenbrook South 56-42 Tuesday night, Jan. 17, at Beardsley Gymnasium.
Opposing coaches will soon be voting to determine the seeds for the Class 4A New Trier Sectional tournament and, with the Kits now 8-11 overall on the season, they might not even be able to climb high enough to be in the top half of the tourney field.
The clock is ticking on the Wildkits and head coach Brittanny Johnson as they try to put together a strong finish to a campaign that’s been disappointing so far.
On Tuesday, Evanston shot just 30% from the field and 50% from the free throw line, yet only trailed by two possessions midway through the fourth quarter against a Glenbrook South squad tied for first place with Maine South in the CSL South standings.
And they did that without leading scorer Zuri Ransom, who twisted her ankle in last Saturday’s loss to Whitney Young.
“We’re at a crossroads right now. We’re still not jelling the way we need to, for us to be successful as a team,” Johnson said. “We don’t have a bad loss on our schedule – that’s the reality – and I hope that [opposing coaches] understand that. We play a really tough schedule, like a lot of other teams do, and we don’t have a bad loss.
“Today is the date I had circled on my calendar when the season started because I knew by now we’d have everyone back and healthy. We have some decisions to make over the next two weeks. Do we take steps forward, or do we take steps backwards? Over the next two weeks we can put ourselves in a good position – or we can make it worse.”
The hosts mustered just four field goals in the first half, but uncharacteristically caught fire in the third quarter behind junior Kailey Starks (team-high 14 points and 7 rebounds) and senior Dafina Ukaj (11 points). They outscored South 19-11 and pulled within 38-35 entering the final quarter after Taija Banks scored underneath (her only basket of the game) with 25 seconds left in the quarter.
Starks connected on a jumper from the free throw line to keep ETHS close (down 41-37) with 6 minutes remaining, but the Wildkits scored only 5 points in the final 6 minutes and South’s Christina Korompilas netted 7 of her total 17 points down the stretch to help the Titans pull away.
South’s Gina Davorija, a sophomore, led all scorers with 22 points. GBS improved to 17-3 on the year.
“What’s really frustrating for me is the way our successful moments just don’t last,” Johnson explained. “We can play perfect for a three-minute stretch, and then we just stop. We need to trust each other enough to stay with it.
“I felt like GBS was able to get any shot they wanted in the first quarter. But we settled down and took away what they were trying to do on offense. I thought we did a really good job of that. And we made a good stand in the third quarter, and that’s a positive step for us, because that’s usually been our worst quarter.
“One thing that’s been a major issue for us is that we really haven’t been able to find a [backup] point guard to get us into our offensive sets, so we end up playing too much 1-on-1. When Zuri’s out there she helps us facilitate things and gets us organized. I knew it would be tough tonight without her.”