The only place Evanston girls basketball coach Brittanny Johnson really recognized her own team Friday night at Beardsley Gym was at the free throw line.
And that wasn’t a good sign for the Wildkits in a prime time showdown with rival New Trier at the Bob Bost Classic doubleheader event.
The hosts shot only 50 percent — 9 of 18 — at the free throw line and that was all the opening that the Trevians needed to turn the tables on an Evanston team that won by 14 points the first time the two teams met.
This time, a miss at the charity stripe by Kayla Henning with 19.9 seconds remaining and ETHS clinging to a one-point lead gave the visitors one last chance, and two free throws by Tina Hong with 4.7 seconds left rallied the Trevians to a 46-45 Central Suburban League South division victory.
The Wildkits (14-6 overall) never got untracked on offense with the exception of junior Jayla Turchin, who scored 21 points and added 4 rebounds and 4 steals. New Trier (15-4) got double figure efforts from Rebecca Goldman (13 points), Taite Ryan (12) and Ava Zaslavsky (10).
Take away Turchin’s 8 of 12 shooting from the floor and the rest of the Wildkits shot just 30 percent (9-of-29) on their own court.
“Free throws killed us tonight,” Johnson said. “Free throws have been a struggle for us all season. We’ve been working on it every day in practice, but we’re only shooting about 60 percent as a team. It hasn’t hurt us before tonight, but I knew sooner or later that it would.
“For me it was almost like looking at strangers tonight because our decision making was so bad. We were able to fight and stay in the game, even though we weren’t playing well, but our preparation could have been a lot better — and that’s on me. We’re at a crossroads in the season and people (opposing teams) are starting to sit on what we do well. I feel like we’re forcing a lot of things and not playing as one. When we had the lead, we made the wrong plays at the wrong time.”
New Trier, which leads the all-time series with 62 victories to 36 for Evanston, ended a 5-game losing string in the rivalry and defeated the Kits for the first time since Johnson took over as head coach. What baffled the ETHS coach was a lack of offensive balance as the losers’ next best offensive output was 8 points from SyAnn Holmes.
“We were able to get Jayla the ball (15 points in the second half) in spots where she can be successful, but the others didn’t step up at all. We can’t be that one dimensional,” Johnson pointed out. “When teams are sagging off on some people, we need others to step up and make shots.”
The Wildkits scored 7 unanswered points — 6 of them by Turchin — to close out the third quarter with a 34-31 lead, but couldn’t extend the advantage any more despite forcing a total of 10 turnovers in the second half. Back-to-back 3-point baskets by Goldman and Zaslavsky in the fourth stanza provided the Trevs with a 42-38 edge midway through the period.
Evanston regrouped to take the lead back on buckets by Turchin and Ariel Logan, and two successful free throws by Turchin in a bonus situation grew the lead back to 45-42 with 42 seconds left on the clock.
Goldman tossed in a 3-pointer, and Henning’s subsequent miss set the stage for Hong, who was fouled on a last-second drive to the hoop.