The members of Evanston’s girls basketball squad dedicated Tuesday’s game at Glenbrook South to head coach Brittanny Johnson, who missed the contest to be with her critically ill mother.
Johnson would have been proud, because the Wildkits turned in their best defensive effort of the season and throttled the Central Suburban League South division favorite Titans 54-31 in their own gym.
Just days after the second-year head coach wondered aloud whether her team would ever find its defensive identity --- and in the midst of the toughest stretch on the schedule --- Evanston limited GBS to only four field goals combined in the last three quarters for the stunningly one-sided win.
Evanston moved to 6-3 on the season and 2-0 in CSL South play, while the Titans fell to 6-2 and 1-1, respectively.
TaMia Banks matched her season high with 10 points and Jayla Turchin delivered 9 points off the bench for the winners, but this upset win was achieved at the defensive end. The Titans didn’t exactly shine on their new home floor, sinking just 24 percent (8-of-34) of their field goal attempts and turning the ball over 19 times against Evanston’s relentless full-court pressure.
“That’s a team that was scoring in the 60s and 70s in their other games,” pointed out Evanston assistant coach Steve Wool. “I thought our defensive pressure on them in the second half was critical. I think our athleticism puts other teams in uncomfortable positions.
“I know this is a tough situation for Coach Johnson. The girls dedicated this win to her and her Mom because they care a lot about Coach Johnson as a coach, and as a person. You have to give the girls credit because they executed the game plan perfectly.”
Nursing a 22-18 lead at halftime, the Wildkits turned up the heat on defense in the third period and held the losers without a field goal for the entire period. Banks erupted for 8 points in the quarter and also finished with 4 steals for the winners, who led 44-21 after three quarters.
“For us, it all starts with TaMia Banks,” said Wool. “That kid is an amazing defender. She always guards the other team’s best offensive player on the perimeter, and I thought she took (Liz) Shaw right out of the game in the second half. She just wore her down and she really gives us a lot of leadership and tenacity out on the court.
“With all that’s going on with Coach Johnson and everything, they were still really locked in today. We didn’t skip a beat, and maybe it is time to re-think who the favorite is in the conference. Me? I think it’s wide open.”
The Wildkits face another stiff test on Friday night at home against Maine South.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.