Brittanny Johnson knows from her own experience just how important depth can be to a high school girls basketball program.
The second-year Evanston coach is a product of a Fenwick High School program that had 11 Division I college recruits — at the same time. The Friars are still the standard to measure depth by, considering that most high school varsity teams are no more than 8 deep.
Evanston’s bench took a big step forward Tuesday night in a Central Suburban League crossover game at Vernon Hills, as the Wildkits destroyed the Cougars 72-40 with their best all-around effort of the season.
It was Evanston’s reserves who broke the game open midway through the first quarter as Johnson’s squad improved to 4-2 overall. In fact, the ETHS bench outscored the starters 37-35 and there was no dropoff in intensity on the defensive end when Johnson turned to her substitutes.
Eleven of the 13 Wildkits who saw action scored, led by Jayla Turchin with 13 points, Ambrea Gentle with 10, and Kayla Henning, TaMia Banks and SyAnn Holmes with 9 apiece. Sophomore point guard Tyler Mayne contributed 7 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 steals in her varsity debut. Vernon Hills, which turned the ball over 26 times and only shot 27 percent from the field on its own court, fell to 2-3 overall.
“So far this year we’ve started 4 different lineups in 6 games, and we’ve consistently gone 11 deep,” Johnson pointed out. “Who else is doing that?
“I don’t want to be one of those coaches who always says ‘I want to play everyone’, but I REALLY do want to play everyone. To me it’s all about matchups, coming from the college game like I do. We can’t be like last year’s team where we’re so heavily dependent on our first 5 girls. We’re playing a lot faster this year and we’re trying to keep everyone fresh. When we get contributions from our bench we usually win — and we win by a lot.
“As a team we need to discover what our identity is and we need to figure out what (combination) works. We had a really tough time at the Schaumburg Tournament because the competition there was so good, and we really needed a ‘feel good’ game like this one going into the New Trier game Friday night (home opener).”
The Wildkits were nursing a 7-5 advantage midway through the first stanza, then erupted for 12 straight points with Banks the only starter on the floor. They stretched the lead to 43-18 by halftime and tacked on 18 more points in the third quarter.
Mayne, a 5-foot-7 sophomore who just moved up from the unbeaten junior varsity squad, did most of her damage in the second half and will help bolster the backcourt with her playmaking and shooting ability, according to the head coach.
“She gives us a second point guard so Kayla (Henning) won’t have to play every single minute,” said Johnson. “Honestly, I think that Tyler is as skilled as Kayla, she just lacks game experience. She had two concussions last year — she only played in about 7 JV games last year — and she also had a concussion this summer, so she was limited then, too.
“At times I think we’ll be able to play with both of them in there at the same time, and any time you have that kind of depth at point guard, that’s what makes you a really good team.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.