Wildkits own the paint in 59-49 shootout victory

Jayla Turchin and Ambrea Gentle didn’t grab EVERY rebound Monday at the 30th annual Coach Kipp Hoopsfest shootout event at Willowbrook High School.

It probably just seemed that way to members of the Mother McAuley basketball team.

Turchin and Gentle combined for 32 points and 35 rebounds as Evanston overpowered the Mighty Macs for a 59-49 victory and improved to 17-2 on the season.

To say that the winners owned the paint would be an understatement. The Wildkits played to their size advantage, outrebounding the losers 50-33, and piled up a staggering 42 points in the paint against a McAuley team that finished 2nd in the state in Class 4A just last year.

The 6-foot-3 Gentle, who was selected Player of the Game for ETHS, scored 19 points and added 18 rebounds, while the 5-foot-11 Turchin netted 13 points and was credited with 17 rebounds. It marked only the second time this year that both players racked up double-doubles in the same game.

McAuley (14-10) was led by Lewis University recruit Jenna Badali, the lone returning starter from that 2019 state runnerup team. She finished with a game-high 27 points, including an 11-of-12 showing at the free throw line.

Evanston sputtered at times in the first half but still led 29-20 at the intermission. Rebound baskets by Turchin and Gentle to start the second half pushed the lead to double digits right away, and that’s where the margin stayed.

“The majority of the game, we didn’t follow the game plan, which was to get the ball inside more,” said Evanston head coach Brittanny Johnson. “And that’s probably the most foul trouble we’ve had this year, too, so that was something new we had to deal with.

“Ambrea was dominant tonight, and so was Jayla. As a coach, you’re trying to figure out every year what your identity will be as a team, and it seems like we’ve had to be a different team in every game. But our game plan has to start inside. High school basketball is a guard’s game now, but when you have a size advantage, you have to be able to utilize that, and being able to catch the ball inside and finish layups is the safest way to achieve your goals and win.

“Our post players have to work so hard because they get pushed and fouled every time they touch the ball, and there’s contact on all of the shots they take. Both Jayla and Ambrea do a really good job, and our guards are able to reward them. They get the ball in the right place at the right time, so our posts can be successful.”

Junior Rashele Olantunbosun, who is usually on the same offensive page with Gentle, delivered a game-high 5 assists and Kayla Henning added 4, although both players had to sit out some of the game due to foul difficulty.

Evanston already led 45-33 early in the fourth quarter when Gentle scored a 3-point play on a hoop and harm effort, and then added a layup off a feed from Olantunbosun. Gentle tallied another bucket underneath then to stretch the lead to 52-36 to seal the victory.

Badali converted 7-of-14 field goal attempts for the losers, but her teammates were a combined 6-for-24 from the field.

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