When you play as difficult a schedule as you can every year, like players in the Evanston girls basketball program do, it can be difficult to put together a winning streak at any stage and momentum can seem so far away.

But momentum is definitely on Evanston’s side at this point of the 2022-23 campaign.
Winners of five of their last six regular season games, including a road win in overtime against defending Class 3A state champion Mundelein Carmel, the Wildkits kept that momentum going Tuesday night to start the “second season” at the Class 4A Loyola Academy Regional tournament.

The Wildkits whipped Niles West for the third time this season, burying the Wolves 63-38 and advancing to the regional title game Thursday night at 7 p.m. against host Loyola. The Ramblers throttled Leyden 66-16 in Tuesday’s first semifinal game.

Evanston’s Zuri Ransom works on her crossover during Evanston’s 44-40 win over Maine South on Nov. 29. The Wildkits defeated Niles West 63-38 on Feb. 14. Credit: Michael Kellams/thatphotodad.com

Evanston will take a 15-13 won-loss record into the championship game after Zuri Ransom – who missed the regular season matchup against the Ramblers with a concussion – led the way Tuesday with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 4 steals. Arianna Milam-Pryor contributed 14 points and 7 boards, and Dafina Ukaj came off the bench to fire in 12 points in the running clock/slaughter rule victory.

Can the Kits keep rolling against a Loyola team that was state-ranked for much of the season and defeated them handily (55-33) in December? Head coach Brittanny Johnson thinks they can.

“It’s been a crazy season for us, but we’re figuring it out now,” said Johnson. “When I told them that they’d won five of their last regular season games they said really? Now there’s a sense of momentum to what we’re doing. There’s more trust, too. We’re locked into a starting five and they’re playing well together. For the first time we can put people in positions for them to be successful.

”I thought we’d get here in January [after injured players returned to form], and here it is February. But there’s no better time to get to this point. We’ve got a lot of momentum. It wasn’t fun getting here. But it’s so much fun now.”

Evanston was relentless at both ends of the floor Tuesday and had no trouble taming the Wolves for a third time. They limited the losers to 8-of-34 shooting from the field and forced 16 turnovers over the first three quarters to put the slaughter rule (30-point lead) into effect.

Evanston exploded to a 20-6 advantage after the first quarter, swarming the Wolves ball handlers and turning defense into offense at the other end as Milam-Pryor got out and ran – and then ran some more.

The Kits built the lead to 38-10 and 56-21 before Johnson turned to her JV players to finish out the slaughter.

“Most of the other teams in the sectional felt we deserved this No. 6 seed,” said the ETHS coach, “and we feel like it gives us the opportunity now to play spoiler. I feel like we can compete with everybody in the sectional at this point.”

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  1. Is there an easy way to view ETHS boys and girls basketball schedules somewhere? It would be nice it articles like this one linked to that schedule.