The start of the “second season” in high school basketball brings every team’s focus to one game at a time, in the one-loss-and-you’re-done format of the Illinois High School Association state playoffs.
But Evanston’s future was also on display Wednesday night — and the future looks bright, not just because of the Class of 2017.
Three sophomores and a freshman stepped into the spotlight at Beardsley Gym as the Wildkits trounced Lane Tech 77-22 in the Class 4A regional tournament at ETHS. With the win Evanston, now 22-5, advanced to the title game Friday night at 7 p.m. against Maine West. West eliminated district rival Maine East 49-45 in the other semifinal game Wednesday.
Evanston burst to a 31-5 first quarter lead — the most points the Kits have scored in any single period this season — and the reserves took advantage of extended playing time to make an impression on head coach Elliot Whitefield.
Even with all five junior starters on the bench, the hosts limited Lane Tech to just one basket in the entire second half. The losers, seeded 15th in the New Trier Sectional tournament grouping, mustered just 6 field goals for the entire game and turned the ball over 38 times.
Sophomore Tamia Banks led all scorers with a career-high 15 points, and junior Leah Robinson stashed in 11 of her 14 points in the first quarter alone. Next best for the Kits were two players who made their varsity debuts, sophomore Nadia Thorman-McKey and freshman Delaney Brooks.
Thorman-McKey, a 5-foot-8 forward, contributed 9 points, 4 steals and a game-high 11 rebounds while point guard Brooks added 8 points, all in the final quarter. They earned promotions to the varsity after leading Evanston’s sophomore team to a 15-7 record this season.
“It was fun to sit there and watch those other kids playing together tonight,” Whitefield said. “Tamia and Amaiya (Johnson) and Nadia and Delaney brought the energy this week in practice that this team needs. The intensity in practice has picked up.
“People ask me sometimes if I’m going to get out when the juniors graduate. But there are a lot of young, talented players here and we have some talented 8th graders coming in, too. When I see the way they compete, and how they’re so open to being coached, that’s something that will keep any coach interested.
“Nadia has shown that she won’t quit on plays, that she’ll keep battling you. She wants to learn the game and she really seems to enjoy the team camaraderie. She adds some athleticism and obviously her future looks bright. Delaney does a good job of protecting the ball, and she really understands the game. Tonight she kept her confidence up when it came to shooting the ball. When she missed some 3s, she took some floaters and some mid-range shots and didn’t just settle for 3s. She ran the floor and finished, too.”
Evanston led 38-15 at halftime and 55-20 after three periods. Johnson netted 8 points and starters Brianna Miller and Krystal Forrester scored 7 apiece for the winners.
Dennis Mahoney is sports information director for ETHS.