Evanston’s girls basketball team almost slipped, then staggered one step closer to another Central Suburban League South division championship on a frigid Thursday night at Beardsley Gymnasium.
The Wildkits held on for a 39-36 victory over Maine South when a 3-point attempt by Hawks’ senior guard Hannah Schilling clanked off the back iron at the final buzzer.
Now 18-6 overall, Evanston likely nailed down a top four seed for the Class 4A Evanston Sectional tournament. The Kits maintained a one-game lead over New Trier in the division standings with a 7-1 mark, with games remaining against Niles North and Niles West. New Trier, 5-2, plays Niles West, Glenbrook South and Niles North over the final stretch.
Evanston prevailed Thursday despite turning the ball over 18 times and shooting 31 percent (14-of-45) from the field. But the Hawks, now 17-9 and 4-4 respectively, also committed 18 turnovers and converted only 27 percent (14-of-51) of their field goal attempts.
You could make a case that neither team really deserved to win and you wouldn’t get an argument from ETHS coach Brittanny Johnson. The two teams scored a mere 1 point combined --- a free throw by South’s Schilling --- in the first 4 minutes of the fourth quarter.
“I don’t think either team could have played worse tonight,” Johnson suggested. “We didn’t play a good game, but luckily we were able to pull out the win.
“Maine South is so well-coached and it’s always harder when we play them a second time (on the conference schedule). We have a lot of history with them, with them beating us and us beating them, and I knew this would be a difficult game. They’ve gotten better and they’re obviously not the same team we played the first time (a 25-point win). Neither are we.
“I hate ugly wins, and this was definitely an ugly win.”
Outrebounded for most of the contest, Evanston had enough moxie to grab 3 straight offensive rebounds on the same possession after South had closed to within 33-32 on a bucket by Nicole Gardiner with exactly 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter.
On the third effort, Jayla Turchin scored on a putback to push the lead to 35-32. Kayla Henning scored on a drive and Tyler Mayne netted another field goal with 2:13 to play for Evanston’s final score. That turned out to be just enough as the Hawks misfired on their last 4 shots from the floor.
Turchin finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds, the only player to reach double figures on a night where everyone’s scoring average took a hit.
ETHS actually outrebounded the Hawks 33-30 and that hasn’t happened often since junior center Ambrea Gentle went on the injured list with a broken hand a month ago. Both Gentle and senior guard Delaney Brooks (leg injury) hope to return to action next week for the Kits.
“Rebounding is something we’ve struggled with without Ambrea in there,” said Johnson. “Maine South wanted it more than we did for most of the game, but in that moment (fourth quarter stretch) we were able to make some huge plays on the boards. We didn’t make multiple plays, but we made the play we needed. We have to rebound better as a team.
“Our girls understood how important this game was and I think we came out a little tight. We didn’t look good even in the first quarter when we got ahead, and then the shots REALLY stopped falling for us. We missed a ton of layups.”