One more rebound. One more loose ball. And a couple of inches on a game-ending halfcourt shot.
That’s how close Evanston’s girls basketball team came to denying New Trier the Central Suburban League South division championship Friday night in Winnetka.
Instead, the Trevians escaped with a 62-61 victory when Savannah Norfleet’s halfcourt attempt with one second remaining glanced off the front of the rim.
Evanston (21-4 overall, 7-2 CSL South) rallied from a 13-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter and threw a scare into the hosts at Gates Gym. New Trier improved to 23-4 overall and nailed down the division title behind 6-foot-3 McDonald’s All-American Jeannie Boehm (27 points, 6 rebounds) and Kathryn Pedi (17 points, 14 rebounds).
Norfleet, a junior guard, came off the bench to pace ETHS with 18 points and Leighah-Amori Wool netted 16 points and grabbed 8 boards. Krystal Forrester and Leah Robinson contributed 8 points apiece for the losers, who could get a return matchup with the Trevians in a couple of weeks if both teams live up to their 1-2 sectional tournament seeds. New Trier will host the sectional semifinals and finals in Class 4A this year.
“Our kids played hard, and we had our opportunities,” said Evanston coach Elliot Whitefield. “I guaranteed the girls that if they were in a little better shape, we’d grab another rebound or pick up another loose ball, and those are the things that come back to haunt you when we play good teams. Hopefully they’ll learn from it and push each other to get in better shape in practice the rest of the season.
“I thought that last shot by Savannah had a chance. But if we had hit that basket, the only difference is that we’d probably all have T-shirts that say conference champs or co-champs on them. What this game showed the girls is that we can definitely compete with — and beat — New Trier.”
Evanston’s inability to contain Boehm is a puzzle the Kits will have to solve if there is a third meeting between the two rivals. She converted 10-of-14 field goal attempts before fouling out with 61 seconds left in the game.
She picked up her fourth personal with 3:59 left on the clock and Evanston wasn’t able to attack her enough against New Trier’s 2-3 zone.
But when she exited, the visitors started a run that featured three straight baskets by Norfleet, including a jumper from the free throw line at the 1:37 mark to draw within 59-57. New Trier had the answer with a 3-point basket from Autumn Kalis to keep the hosts on top.
Wool’s drive to the hoop with 13 seconds left made it a one-posssesion game. After the two teams exchanged turnovers, New Trier’s Katherine Gjertsen missed a bonus free throw try and Norfleet emerged from a scramble with the ball, only to come up short just before the buzzer.
“If we make it to the point where we play them again, we have to do a better job with our defensive assignments,” Whitefield pointed out. “We kept doubling off the wrong person and we didn’t pressure the ball well enough tonight. We let them pass it in and out and we gave Jeannie too many touches. We were too confused on defense.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.