Evanston girls basketball coach Elliot Whitefield thought the time was right for Sierra Clayborn to rest her injured foot Monday night.
A makeup game of the non-conference variety against Grayslake North wasn’t significant enough to risk the health of the team’s leading scorer with the start of postseason play looming next week, so Clayborn watched from the bench as her team fell into a 29-13 hole in the first half at Beardsley Gym.
The Wildkits almost fought all the way back before bowing 54-48 to a Grayslake team that converted 29-of-41 opportunities at the free throw line.
Evanston slipped to 18-7 with only one regular season game remaining, Friday night against Waukegan. And Whitefield wasn’t sure whether the glass was half empty — considering his squad’s first half performance — or half full — after a spirited comeback that featured eight 3-point baskets by the hosts in the last two periods.
Clayborn’s twin sister, Seara, fired in 19 points and added 11 rebounds and 4 steals for the losers. Dashae Shumate also netted 19 points for the Kits, 13 of them coming in the second half.
Guard Kendall Detweiler paced Grayslake North (19-8) with 19 points, including a 10-for-10 effort at the free throw line. The Knights only scored three field goals in the second half.
“It was strictly precautionary that Sierra didn’t play. If it was a win-or-go-home game, she would have played,” Whitefield said. “She hasn’t been 100 percent for awhile now, and I want her to be 100 percent, because that will make us a more dangerous team.
“As good as our defense was on Friday (a win over Maine South) against more skilled players, that’s how bad it was in the first half tonight. They were driving right by us. We made some shots in the second half and our effort was much better. We were quicker to the ball, and we didn’t give up on plays on defense.
“This was an opportunity for us to play a pretty good team and I didn’t think the girls came out with a sense of urgency. I’m pretty sure they’ll change that once the (state) playoffs start, but you never want to wonder about turning it off and turning it on like that.”
Evanston cashed in on its first three 3-point field goal attempts, then only scored four points in the next 14 minutes, shooting 2-of-16 from the floor and turning the ball over 13 times on their way to that 29-13 deficit.
Still trailing by 12 points entering the final quarter, Evanston staged a furious comeback. Three-point baskets by Shumate and Leighah Amori-Wool (8 points) pulled the hosts to within 48-46 with 1 minute, 40 seconds remaining.
But the Knights sank 6-of-10 free throws down the stretch to earn the victory.
Source: ETHS Sports Information