It didn’t take long for Evanston’s girls basketball team to face some adversity in their season opener Tuesday night at the Schaumburg Thanksgiving Tournament.
First-year head coach Brittanny Johnson didn’t mind a bit when she saw the way the Wildkits responded to a third quarter drought in which they mustered just six points and went almost seven full minutes without a field goal.
Adversity tends to bring out the best in seniors, and four-year starters Leighah-Amori Wool and Krystal Forrester rose to the occasion as the ETHS girls downed Wheaton Warrenville South 43-27 in the first round of the tournament.
Wool, who rose to the top of the Evanston career scoring charts all by herself after entering the season tied with Danielle McKinley on the all-time list, and Forrester combined for all 11 points in an 11-2 run that broke open the game to start the fourth quarter.
Wool stashed in 20 points and Forrester contributed 11 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocked shots for the winners, who forced 26 turnovers and didn’t panic even on an opening night where they clearly weren’t all on the same page as a team.
“I knew it could be rough at the start for us,” Johnson said. “It was all about us, not about Wheaton South. I think we were over-excited tonight because we did things I haven’t seen us do at all the past two weeks. We just have to be more focused and play the way we do every day in practice.
“I really wasn’t worried, because I knew we had the players who could make things happen. They have to learn to fight through it when things aren’t going their way.”
Leading 28-20 after that rough third period, Wool and Forrester took turns righting the ship. Wool, who sank 9-of-15 field goal attempts, opened the 11-2 surge with a steal and dashed almost the length of the court for a layup, and later tossed in a 3-point shot. Forrester was credited with two rebound baskets and also added a pair of free throws to help ETHS build a 39-22 advantage.
“Leighah was really good early on for us, but Krystal was a little tentative after she missed a couple of shots and was called for a couple of fouls,” Johnson said. “But the way she played in the third and fourth quarter was a big reason we won, along with the defensive energy that SyAnn Holmes gave us off the bench.”
Evanston’s stingy man-to-man defense limited the Tigers to just 12-of-32 field goal shooting along with the 26 turnovers by the losers. Junior forward Jayla Johnson led Wheaton with 8 points.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.