Given a few more minutes of playing time, Leah Robinson might have outscored Niles North’s entire girls basketball team Tuesday night at the Class 4A Evanston Regional tournament.
That’s how dominant the Evanston senior was just coming off the bench to get the Wildkits off on the right foot for what they hope will be a deep postseason run.
Robinson erupted for a career-high 26 points and added 14 rebounds, 5 steals and a blocked shot as the Kits destroyed Niles North 84-36 and improved to 25-3 on the season. They’ll face Chicago Taft, a 66-54 winner over Oak Park-River Forest, for the regional title on Thursday at 7 p.m. at ETHS.
The 6-foot Robinson muscled her way to a staggering 14 points in the third quarter alone, taking advantage of a Viking team that had no starters taller than 5-foot-8. It marked the third lopsided win for the Kits against North this season, as Krystal Forrester (11 points), Allysah Boothe (10) and Leighah-Amori Wool (9) backed up Robinson’s performance.
Evanston’s defense surrendered 15 points in the first quarter, then limited the visitors to just two field goals in the next two stanzas and forced 33 turnovers overall.
The urgency of postseason play — both in Robinson’s case and a higher level of play from the opposition — wasn’t lost on ETHS first-year head coach Brittanny Johnson.
“No one else has anything to lose when they play us,” said Johnson regarding the target on the backs of the No. 1 sectional seed. “Playing in that play-in game (North defeated Chicago Schurz in Monday’s opener) has its benefits, and they used that energy to get off to a hot start tonight against us. This was a reminder for us that everybody is equal when the playoffs start. It was a great lesson for our girls that teams will come out and play like they have nothing to lose.
“Our seniors have to understand that now every game could be their last. Niles North put it all out there, and we didn’t do that until the second half.”
The Vikings connected on 6-of-9 field goal attempts in the first quarter when they weren’t turning the ball over, and 8 points from guard Gina Loy kept the visitors within striking distance, trailing 20-15 at the first quarter stop.
Robinson scored 6 points in the second quarter as ETHS outscored North 15-2 — but she was just getting warmed up. She accounted for 14 of Evanston’s season-high 35 points in the third quarter, which ended with the hosts on top 70-22.
For Robinson and other unsigned seniors, postseason play can bring more opportunities to add to their video resumes and impress college coaches.
“I hope now that Leah understands what an important piece she can be for us,” said Johnson. “We have to get more from our bench, and the way she dominated that third quarter, it was really fun to watch.
“She’s had interest from some Division I and Division II schools, and I told her what they’re looking for is for players who are consistent. That’s how she can be the player I know she can be, just play more consistent. She played really well tonight. At times I think she’s too nice out there, because she can dominate anyone you put in front of her. We didn’t exploit our size advantage in the first half and I told them we had to do that in the second half because we didn’t want it to turn into a scary (close) game.”
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.