Evanston’s girls almost pulled off one of the biggest fourth quarter comebacks in the 31-year history of the Dundee-Crown Charger Classic tournament Saturday night.
Trailing by 17 points when the fourth quarter began, the Wildkits cut the deficit to two points with 28 seconds remaining before Prospect freshman Haley Will sank four straight free throws and turned back the Kits 56-51 in the tournament semifinals.
Now 12-3 on the season, the ETHS girls will face Mother McAuley Monday at 6:30 p.m. in the tournament’s third place game. McAuley lost 47-43 to New Trier in the other semifinal.
It was fitting that Prospect clinched the win at the free throw line. The Knights (13-1) outscored Evanston by a staggering 32-9 at the charity stripe. Prospect converted 32-of-46 at the free throw line as the officials whistled 31 personal fouls and 2 technical fouls on the slow-starting Wildkits.
Senior Dashae Shumate paced Evanston with 22 points, including 12 in the final period. But that closing effort couldn’t make up for another slow start by the losers, who only shot 23 percent (10-of-44) from the field over the first three quarters.
Shumate missed 18 of her 25 field goal attempts, including a 4-of-10 performance from 3-point range. She also grabbed 12 rebounds.
Next best for the Wildkits was Sierra Clayborn with 8 points, all of them coming in the fourth quarter.
“We put ourselves in a bad position at the start, and you’re not going to be able to come (all the way) back against good teams when you do that. And Prospect is a good team,” said Evanston coach Elliot Whitefield. “It’s impossible to pressure people when you can’t convert shots. We were taking what I call half-shots — little flips at the basket — and we either have to attack the basket and take the punishment, or pull up and shoot.
“This game is supposed to be about the kids, though, and this was one of the worst refereed games I’ve ever seen. All three of them shouldn’t have worked a semifinal game like this.”
The Wildkits turned up the defensive heat on Prospect after top scorer Taylor Will (27 points) dropped in 12 points in the third quarter, 10 of them coming on free throws. Evanston forced nine turnovers in the fourth quarter to claw back into contention and finally pulled to within 52-50 when Shumate rebounded her own miss with 28 seconds to play.
Will countered with four free throws to one for the losers (by Shumate) over the last 21 seconds as Prospect advanced to the title game.
“When we put forth the effort we can, there isn’t a team we can’t compete with in the state,” Whitefield added.
Source: ETHS Sports Information