Kits find range from 3-point distance in regional romp

Evanston’s girls basketball team already went through one identity crisis this season, switching to an up-tempo profile from a halfcourt offense when 6-foot-2 junior center Ambrea Gentle was sidelined with a broken hand and couldn’t provide a post-up presence.

But just because the Wildkits almost broke the school record for 3-point baskets made Tuesday night at Maine South, that doesn’t mean the Kits are about to become a female version of the Golden State Warriors.

Still, the confidence boost provided as ETHS connected on 10-of-19 shots from beyond the arc in an 85-35 slaughter of Leyden in the semifinals of the Class 4A Maine South Regional tournament was almost as significant as the fact that the Kits (22-7) advanced to the regional championship game.

They’ll face host Maine South at 7 p.m. on Friday for the right to advance to next week’s Evanston Sectional.

Five different players tossed in 3-point bombs for the winners, and those 10 treys are just one short of the school single game record set by the 2013-14 squad in a loss to Grayslake North. That marksmanship was no surprise to head coach Brittanny Johnson, who predicted before the season began that this would be her best shooting team to date.

The problem? Convincing the players, that’s all.

“Three-point shooting is not a huge part of our offense, but this isn’t shocking to me,” said the ETHS coach. “We’ve talked all year with them about being shot-takers, and being shot-makers, and we’ve been getting up a lot of shots in practice. Every one who made a 3 tonight is capable of that, and now we’ve got the second part of the equation. Tonight they were shot-makers.

“To be able to finish off that part of the equation is really going to build their confidence. A lot of teams like to sag off of some of our players, so this was really nice to see. We’re trying to build so we’re a better defensive team, and we’re trying to be a better shooting team, too. Every day we’re trying to take a step in the right direction.”

The Wildkits counted treys from Amena Alexander (2), Delaney Brooks (2), Kayla Henning (2), Lola Lesmond (2) and Jayla Turchin (2) in the blowout win over a Leyden team that had won its play-in game by 40 points. Turchin paced the winners with 14 points, Henning totaled 12, and Gentle contributed 10.

“We got a lot of early steals and scored in transition tonight, but in the second half we wanted to get back to running some offense,” said Johnson, whose team led 52-16 at halftime and could have named the final score and even approached 100. “Tonight the best shots we got were actually those 3-point shots, and we were able to convert them.”

Evanston shot 56 percent (35-of-63) from the floor as 13 different players scored.

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