Call them the Comeback Kits.
Evanston’s girls basketball team staged one of the most improbable comebacks in program history Sunday and snatched a 60-59 victory away from Chicago Simeon at the Winter Blast Shootout event held at the Southland Center in south suburban Lynwood.
The Wildkits, after trailing by 13 points with 3 minutes and 30 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, scored 5 points in the final 21 seconds to complete the comeback. Ariel Logan’s steal of an inbounds pass produced the game-winning layup for the Wildkits, now 7-1 on the season.
ETHS head coach Brittanny Johnson was still shaking her head in disbelief on the bus ride home. The shootout was held in a rec center where neither the score nor the time on the clock were accurate for most of the game, and the timing problems were a huge distraction for both squads.
Simeon, in fact, didn’t even attempt a field goal in the final seconds after Logan’s steal and layup, as the Wolverines weren’t sure just what the score was at that point.
“That was a crazy, crazy game,” Johnson said. “There were so many things going on here today, but we learned something from our loss to Maine West. When we were down, we didn’t quit, and we fought through it. For sure, that was a grind-it-out victory. This is an incredible moment and I am so proud of this team!
“This is one of the most interesting games that I’ve ever been a part of. For the first three quarters we kept worrying about the clock and the score, but in the fourth quarter we just focused on playing the game. And at the end, I think Simeon thought they were still up on us. They didn’t know what the score was.
“We were subbing Ari in and out (to provide defense in defensive situations) and our girls were truly focused at the end. They deserved that win. Ari just stayed ready and she made the biggest play of the game.”
Evanston trailed 59-55 with 21 seconds left when sophomore Rashele Olatunbosun was fouled. She made the first free throw and missed the second, but Jayla Turchin’s putback of the offensive rebound set the stage for Logan’s heroics.
“I was up (pressing) on the inbound pass and the girl tried to pass it over my head,” Logan recalled. “Tyler Mayne tipped it to me, I stole it and just rushed it up (to the rim). I didn’t think, I just shot it, and that’s the first game-winning shot I’ve ever made.
“Things weren’t going well for us most of the game, but I knew we were going to find a way to win.”
Logan’s bucket was only her second of the game. The Wildkits were led by Ambrea Gentle’s 13 points and 14 rebounds, but the junior center fouled out with 35 seconds left after battling Simeon’s multiple talented bigs (four players listed at 6-foot or taller) the entire game. Turchin added 12 points and 9 rebounds to go with Kayla Henning’s 11 points and 10 from Mayne.
The Wolverines, who led 24-20 at halftime, managed to extend the lead even after ETHS switched from a man-to-man defense to a rare 1-1-3 zone in the third period. Simeon scored 8 straight points to boost the advantage to 39-29, and owned a 45-34 edge entering the fourth quarter.
Simeon missed 4 straight free throw opportunities down the stretch to keep the Kits close enough to pull off a winning rally.
“We have some defenses that we’re good at, but we have to find a way to not be stagnant on defense,” Johnson pointed out. “We somehow found a way to stay in this game.”